Yesterday I posted about MAKING LOVE and the idea that LOVE is the central ethic of the Christian faith (click here to read the post). Jesus teaches that the foundation of the Christian life (and I would argue, what it means to be human) is to LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS — and to love others is to do so with a radical, sacrificial Jesus-like love. The Apostle Paul defines this kind of love in 1 Corinthians 13.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I am not sure if there is any command more difficult nor more important to live out than the command to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES AND PRAY FOR THOSE WHO SAY ILL ABOUT YOU AND PERSECUTE YOU.
I think it is fair to say that you ONLY LOVE GOD AS MUCH AS YOU LOVE THE HARDEST PERSON TO LOVE IN YOUR LIFE. Folks, this is pretty big deal.
I have come to understand this quite personally the past 6 months.
For the first time (I know of) as a Christian, I have many people who pretty much hate me, say evil things about me, despise me, and have disfellowshipped me (not only institutionally, but this has happened by literally scores of individuals). There are people who actively are withholding forgiveness towards me. Others speak of forgiveness but refuse to even speak to me (which I think is a pretty good sign that they have not forgiven.) People are justified in being angry at me, but I think that hatred and disfellowshipping are unwarranted and contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
But the truth is that I struggle with loving those who hate me and speak ill about me — tell lies, spread rumors, and speak evil of me. But Jesus’s command is clear: I need to love them, pray for them, forgive them. Period. Without debate or discussion. Not to is sin — as great as my sin that caused all this mess in the first place.
LOVING YOUR ENEMY & PRAYING FOR THOSE WHO ATTACK, PERSECUTE AND SPEAK BADLY OF YOU is a really big deal.
Bill Hybels — one of my heroes and one of my mentors (from a distance) recently gave an unbelievably challenging message about loving your enemies (click here). It challenged and convicted me… I needed to hear it… I hope you will take the time to listen to it and apply it in your life…
And so you know, I can honestly say that I have fully forgiven those who have wronged me. And I can honestly say I am learning to love those who hate me… to love them and pray for them daily. I pray that God would bless them and protect them and grow them and shower grace upon them. I pray that daily as a discipline because if I don’t, it is too easy to slip back into resentment and anger. And I pray also for reconciliation — because not to would mean that I hadn’t really forgiven them and didn’t really love them.
Here is a link to the sermon… it is worth your time to check it out. And as a personal favor to me, PLEASE take the time to listen to this message. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE.
And on a personal note… in case there is any doubt… if you and I or in need of reconciliation, I am open and ready to meet — for coffee, breakfast, whatever… I have been told by the church that I can’t initiate those conversations, but I just wanted it to be abundantly clear… I am waiting and willing and praying…