“To Love the Unlovable”

(Jude 1: 22-23, The Message) Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.

I have found that we like to put sin in boxes.  We categorize it all from what we deem understandable or acceptable, to what is most unforgivable and horrendous, and then all of the stuff between.  I’ve done it, and I know you have as well.  But really, isn’t it all just sin?  It’s all bad, it all separates us from God, and it all “stinks to high heaven.” 

Not many people who know me would consider me an optimist.  I tend to be more of a realist than anything.  However, I have a deeply compassionate heart, and I always seem to find a way to see the good in others.  In this way, I am hopeful.  I see the beauty that is the human soul, made and formed in the image of God, and I am often able to look past what people are doing or have done and love them anyway.

I wasn’t always so loving.  For many years of my life, I had a very distrustful, resentful and hard heart.  I had to ask the Lord to help me open my heart to others, and He has.  In my walk with Christ, I have learned that compassion and love are simply not optional…they are requirements!  We are not asked to love others…it is a commandment…in fact, it is the greatest of all commandments…that which must govern and influence every aspect of our lives, and will ultimately keep us from many of the sins that may tempt us.  Love and compassion must be evident and ever growing in our lives…

The most difficult part of love is extending that grace and compassion toward those who are the most difficult to understand and forgive.  Because of our “sin boxes” that we have created, there are just some things that we can’t seem to get past — the big, bad sins — the things that our worst fears and nightmares are made of — the things on the news that make our stomachs turn and boil our blood with anger and outrage.  But where does love fit into it?  We must remember that it has to…we have to make it fit.  If we are to “go after those who take the wrong way,” then we have an obligation to stretch ourselves — to love the unlovable, right?

So what do we do?  How are we to be tender with the sinner, yet hard on the sin?  The answer will always be the same:  just love.  Open your eyes and see a person, a soul created by God, imperfect, yet never too far gone for God to reach.  When you pray, ask the Lord to restore that person, and instead of rebuking them, rebuke the powers of hell that have been allowed to take hold of that life.  You see, we can hate sin all day long, but we have been commanded to love others. 

A few years ago, my husband and I were at big youth conference in Knoxville, TN.  We take teens from our church every spring.  That particular year, a singer named Matthew West was there.  He sang a song called “Forgiveness,” but before he sang it, he told a story that has stuck with me.  I want to share what he said about why he wrote that song:

“The song is about Renee, who lost her daughter Megan in a car accident at the hands of a drunk driver, a 24-year-old named Eric who was by all accounts a great young man, but made a tragic mistake. Renee’s been on a journey of hatred, and bitterness, and she’s learned how to forgive the young man who took her beloved daughter’s life.

In a miraculous way, after Megan’s death in 2001, Renee began giving presentations, and in time, God put it on her heart to forgive this man and reach out to him in prison. She learned that until she was set free of the anger and bitterness she held towards Eric, she was going to be the prisoner even though he was the one behind bars.

As a result, Eric found his own personal faith in Christ and they developed a unique friendship to the point where she feels like she gained a son, and she even went to the courts to cut Eric’s sentence in half. He made a terrible mistake taking the life of two young girls, and yet he’s been forgiven. Renee told him that she serves a God who commands her to forgive and she needed to be set free as much for herself as for him.”

It took a lot of love, that could only come from God, for this mother to not only forgive the young man who caused her daughter’s death, but also for her to reach out to him and show him compassion.  Because she was obedient to God in her own life, she was able to be used of God to change his life forever, bringing healing to both lives in a remarkable and miraculous way — God’s way — the only way that it could ever take place.  That’s what I call a beautiful exchange.  And this, friends, is the perfect example of being tender toward sinners — of going easy on those who waver in the faith.  It may seem impossible, but we are called to go beyond what we think we are capable of, and we are commanded to love.

Show me how to love the unlovable

Show me how to reach the unreachable

Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness

-“Forgiveness” by Matthew West

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to see others through Your eyes. Give me Your heart, and help me to be brave enough to love those whom everyone else seems to reject.  Soften my heart, Lord, and help me to always let love win.  Amen. 

“God of Miracles”

(Mark 16: 14-20, NLT) 14 Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead.

15 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17 These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

19 When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.

Miracles, signs, and wonders:  we hear that phrase a lot within the body of Christ.  I have heard it for what seems like my entire life, yet I have to be very frank and admit that I don’t think I’ve seen much in the way of these three phenomena.  Please know, I am not saying that these things don’t exist or take place in our world today.  I know that mighty things do still happen in the name of Christ, for the glory of God.  It’s just that I was reading this passage of scripture and I realized the same thing that I always think when I hear about miraculous signs taking place:  I, personally, am not seeing anything like this happen around me. 

(These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe…)

Have I ever prayed for a miracle?  Yes, I have.  Have I longed to see wonders…things that are utterly inexplicable and awesome?  I sure have.  So what is the missing link?  Why is there this void within the church, and in my own spiritual life?

Looking back at this passage, I tried putting myself in that room when Jesus walked in, risen from the dead, a new and glorious form of Himself.  I imagined being party to His words of rebuke, and how ashamed the discipled must have felt when they realized that not only were they wrong to doubt Jesus, but also that He knew every faithless thought they’d had and He took it to heart.  How disappointed in themselves they must have felt!  Yet even after this chastisement, Jesus still saw fit to entrust His disciples with His Great Commission.

If you’ve ever let someone down, and I’m guessing you definitely have, then you know how exciting it is when that person still finds it in his/her heart to trust you.  It stirs you to try harder.  Being given a second chance is one of the most inspiring things that can happen to us…because we know we can do better, and we are determined not to make that same mistake twice! 

Well what does that have to do with miraculous signs??  My point is that the disciples were chastised, then commissioned.  They were excited!  Jesus ascended to Heaven, and they went about God’s business.  They weren’t distracted by their lives and the petty successes of the world.  They didn’t stop to think and consider every single thing.  They moved and acted by the leading of the Holy Spirit, and never once did God disappoint. 

I have always believed that miracles happen for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission, as confirmation of God’s word.  I think sometimes we get distracted and start to think it’s all about us and the betterment of our physical lives.  We want healing because we don’t want to suffer or to see our loved ones suffer.  But doesn’t the Bible tell us, “In the world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33)?  We want to see signs and wonders because we are so accustomed to being entertained and “wowed” by our environments, that when we are not being entertained within our spiritual lives it seems almost lackluster to us.  You may not like to read that, but it’s the truth. 

We have it all wrong…and most all of us are guilty.  WE are the missing links.  It is our own selfishness that is keeping us from seeing the manifest power and Glory of God in our lives.  We have lost our excitement about doing our jobs!

Friends, it is time to reconstruct our priorities, time to reevaluate our spirits, and time to recommit our lives to His purpose and plan.  There is no better time.  This world is not going to get better.  Time is running out.  We desperately need miraculous signs to begin to take place in our circles of influence, but we have to shed the selfishness or it just won’t happen.  Or…we can just continue on as is…doing the things we always do…going through the systems and motions of our lives… 

Personally, I’m sick of that.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, we have all been given second chances, by and through Your loving kindness and Your grace.  Help us restore the excitement of being forgiven and trusted!  Help us cast down every crown and every selfish motivation at Your feet, so that the world can once again see Your power and glory, bringing the lost into Your arms.  Amen.

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