Learning to Love
Does anyone else struggle in relationships or is it just me? I already know the answer. Unless you’re on a deserted island, there’s struggle. Even there it’s possible, as portrayed by Tom Hank’s character in Cast Away, struggling with his friend, Wilson, the volleyball. We can’t get away from it, so we might as well settle it! Relationships are challenging.
The most helpful tool in relating to others is The Word of God. No two people are the same. No two set of circumstances look alike. So Jesus met everyone where they were—spoke in the most intriguing and unexpected ways in order to bring healing and life. Sometimes people accepted Him and sometimes they rejected Him. When we’ve reached out to love people and done our best to live at peace with them, we might be rejected too. In those instances, we have to fight the urge to become offended or retaliate. I read an awesome quote by Christine Caine recently: “Don’t allow someone else’s brokenness to undermine your wholeness. You may not have said/done anything
So, how should we respond? There’s a beautiful passage of scripture covering relationships titled “Love in Action” by the NIV and quite plainly expressed from The Message in Romans 12: 9-21: Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.wrong, it is simply their perspective that is not right. Hurting people hurt people.”
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
This is upside-down world! The kingdom of the world says: Win at any cost. The kingdom of God says: Delight in honoring others above yourself. We’re missing it when control and winning is more important than loving and understanding our friend, family member or spouse. I’m learning the more we deny our desire to retaliate or get our own way, the more room we leave for God’s Spirit to move in another person’s heart.
Here’s the mantra of the hour for me: “Let it go, let it go, let it go!” What amazing freedom lies in living and moving and breathing in God concerning our relationships. We don’t have the power to fix the heart of a gnat much less the human heart! Oh, but God! The maker and sustainer of every beating heart, has the power and the good pleasure to move on our behalf. Everything we do in step with Him affords people the best opportunity to know Him and to know His love. One time the Lord spoke to my heart concerning a friend with an addiction: “Michelle, when you do more than I’ve asked you to do, you’re enabling them; any less is not affording them the grace that may be the catalyst for change!”
Let go of control and live by grace, this is His work, these are His people. I’m just invited to love!
Relationships are very complex, especially when there are addictions or illness. We tend to judge others by what we see with our eyes. That’s what Job’s friends did. They saw his downfall and loss and looked at it all too simplistically. Timothy Keller writes, essentially they said: “Look, Job. Our lives are the product of our choices. If you choose to live right and well, your life will go right and well. If God loved you, He wouldn’t let such things happen. He must be mad at you and the choices you’ve made.”
Keller doesn’t discount that choices have consequences, but he underscores nothing we ever do or don’t do can ever separate us from God’s love. It’s unconditional. He assures us there will be suffering and trial in the midst of a broken world, even if we were able to live perfectly from the account in Matthew 3 and 4. Jesus lived a perfect life. He earned a pass from suffering and inconvenience. Yet, while he was being baptized, the Spirit of God descended like a dove and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” And the next moment he found himself in the desert being tempted by Satan. Keller writes from that time there would be a steady progression of rejection, attempts on his life, betrayal, poverty, grief, loss, torture, and finally death. To his point, there is a spiritual battle.
The Bible says we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) There are spiritual forces of darkness at play. However, the weapons we fight with are not of the flesh either, but divinely powerful for the destruction of strongholds.
Don’t get me wrong; there are times when justice calls for physically turning over a table. But in every situation, we need to look at people from God’s vantage point. Judging blocks our ability to love and sometimes there’s more going on than meets the eye.
Relationships are messy because we’re broken people in a broken world. Yet when we allow God to use us as a conduit of his love and grace and forgiveness, God can turn a mess into a miracle. And, what if we prayed more than we whined? No one is too far gone and nothing is too hard for God. People are not the sum total of their choices; they’re fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of God. Sometimes the enemy of their soul has taken them so far away, they’ve forgotten or perhaps they’ve never known who they are. Sometimes they just need someone to remind them.
Keller explains: “Christianity says there’s more evil than you can account for in the world just from the cumulative effect of wrong individual choices. And you can attribute some of that evil to actual demonic forces. But on the other hand, Christianity is not dualistic. The demonic forces are not the equal of God. The devil is a fallen angel leading fallen angels, and God is infinitely more powerful. And in the very end, not only can God overcome them all, but he certainly will. That is the electrifying promise and hope that blows through all the pages of the Bible.”
Excerpt from Timothy Keller’s Encounters with Jesus. Connect with Michelle through HandOfTheKing.com.
By Michelle Wallace