Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Loving Beyond What We Feel

Everyone at some juncture, on this road of life, is acquainted with an individual or two who has hurt him or her. This person is one who:

  • Sees only what they want to see
  • Makes accusations against you
  • Says one thing but does another
  • Speaks hurtful stuff about those you love
  • Wounds you with their thoughtless remarks

I’ve experienced several blows by people I’ve trusted, loved, and cared for. And I’ve struggled to make peace in my heart, as I’ve worked on healing my wounds. Just the mention of their names has made me extremely annoyed. Do you have a person like that?

Loving beyond what we feel is the hardest aspect of the Christian faith. Turning the other cheek when offended and loving the unlovely is a difficult task.

Yet, we are told by Jesus, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them,” (Luke 6:32). My sore heart wants to shout, yea but—

Here are some reasons we might find it hard to love beyond what we feel:

  1. We struggle why God would let a person continue to hurt others
  2. We feel like God take sides
  3. We think we’ll lose favor with God because of how we feel
  4. We judge ourselves for having negative feelings
  5. We confuse loving and liking

God Allows Them to Continue to Hurt Others
I read once “hurting people hurt people.” We are free agents to choose an attitude, make a remark—cutting or nice, think of ourselves before others. We make these choices, and mostly out of our own unhealed pain and selfishness.

The Word says, “ . . . the Lord disciplines those he loves . . .” (Hebrews 12:6). God will hold each of us accountable, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad,” (2 Corinthians 5:10). This is the perspective we should have—people make choices, good and bad and God will judge each of them.

God Takes Sides
This is a story we tell ourselves, because we might not see ourselves equal in Christ. Or no one will believe me. God does not have a measuring cup with which he measures everyone’s wrong doing. “Hmm let me see, yes, Diane has one cup of sin today and Johnny one and a half. I love Johnny more today because he has less sin.” The grace of God is not measured differently to Billy Graham, your priest or pastor, or to you or me. The same blessings of his grace are the same for all his children.

We are one body in which Christ is the head, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body,” (Ephesians 4:25).

Losing Favor with God
If we carry the idea that God takes sides then one might think God shows more favor to one and less to others. We abandon the verse, which states, “For God does not show favoritism,” (Romans 2:11, see also Acts 10:34).

“Oh yes I see,” says God, “Diane has exceed her good works today but Johnny, he’s lagging. No favor for Johnny today.” God’s love is equal for everyone, and the ground is level at the foot of the cross. God’s love for us is not based on what we do or don’t do, it’s about what his Son has done for us. We are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” (Ephesians 4:25); however that does not mean we accept offenses and cannot feel angry or upset by something done or said to us, which is hurtful.

Judging Ourselves
When a brother or sister in the Lord offends us, we might suffer in silence, thinking we can’t have a “bad” feeling. Thus we place judgment on ourselves for having such angry thoughts toward them. This is not true, as our feelings are neither right nor wrong. Our emotions are safeguards, which allows us to take heed, “Hey wait a minute this is not right.” We have to let go of judging ourselves for what we feel. A feeling, like anger, is not a sin. If we act on our anger, in a negative way, then that becomes the sin. So no throwing your cat across the room.

We are allowed our thoughts and feelings. When hurt by others, we need a confidant. We need to filter our emotions through prayer and God’s word. And we need time to mend.

Confusing Love with Like
We can still love someone but not necessarily like them. We can love them in Christ. We can love them as a member of our family. We can love them even if we don’t have warm fuzzy feelings toward them.

We know that love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful. It’s not proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. And by far love keeps no record of wrongs (See 1Corinthians 13) This is a mirror of God’s agape love—his unconditional love—that we are to emulate toward each other in brotherly love. I think it will take a lifetime to perfect this kind of love.

While we can still love our brother or sister, we are not obligated to like their behaviors. And we have the right to our boundaries. The church has lost sight of this. A boundary is where I begin and end. It’s a fence around my yard and I can let in or out those things, which are good or harmful. I can love but choose not to be hurt again by a particular person, whomever that person might be, or whatever role they play in my life.

For those of us who’ve been hurt, we can find comfort in knowing God knows and he sees. He loves you, he loves me, and he loves our offender. He will, in his time bring about the necessary correction for us all. In that we can love beyond what we feel and work toward forgiving.

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