This year there has been one section of scripture that I have continued to return to when evaluating my life. It is Matthew 22:34-40.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these to commandments.”
To make it easier to remember, it can be summed up as this: Love God. Love people. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially the “love people” part. I can be very task oriented at times which does not always leave room for people. However, I do desire to be more willing to exchange my agenda for God’s, which usually is about loving and caring for others.
Recently there was a Sunday sermon about forgiving others. I recognized that I held a few small grudges against people, fairly insignificant things that wouldn’t be very difficult to let go of and move forward. I don’t feel like I have received large injuries from other people that might require more wrestling and struggling to forgive.
This thought led me to think of a friend of mine who is having serious relationship issues. They are currently enduring emotional pain and struggle. I realized that I held anger toward the spouse. I was thinking about my friend and felt sad that they are hurting and have limited control over the circumstances. I wanted to have someone to blame for the pain, hurt and mess and the spouse seemed like the obvious choice. Realizing these feelings I asked God to show me how I could love both people in this situation.
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God reminded me that the spouse is human, just like me. They make mistakes and poor choices that hurt others at times, just like me. They are probably hurt, confused, and frustrated themselves right now, just like my friend. They probably do not want to cause pain to their spouse. They desire the same things we all desire – to be loved, known and accepted. The spouse is worthy of love and respect, just like me. They are deeply loved by God, just like me. God desires to show them grace just as he has shown me grace.
God also reminded me that my friend’s spouse is not really the enemy. Satan is the true enemy, the father of lies. With this knowledge, I ought to be praying for both my friend and their spouse. I need to pray for the truth to be spoken into this situation and into both of their lives. I need to pray for supernatural healing and restoration. Because of Jesus there is hope that this situation can be redeemed.
My heart is being softened and I’m learning that it is possible (though definitely not always easy or natural) to show grace and love even in difficult situations. Of course, so far the offenses against me have been minor and not very life altering or affecting. I have a strong suspicion that more grievous offenses require greater amounts of God’s power to love and forgive and extend grace.
Earlier this week I learned that someone I went to high school with appears to also be struggling in their relationship. The person wasn’t always the kindest to me so my first reaction was tinged with a bit of gladness at their misfortune. I was surprised at my callous reaction and realized it meant I still held some unforgiveness after all of these years. I asked God to help me to see this person through eyes of love and grace. This person also wants what we all want – love, companionship, acceptance. So I prayed that they would receive these things. I prayed that they would know that Jesus loves them and can comfort and help them during this difficult time.
I am so thankful that God is changing my heart toward others. I know that loving God and people will take my whole life to master but I desperately want to get better at both. It definitely is painful at times to learn how I am falling short in these areas but I know that it is necessary for change and growth.
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