“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” ~Matthew 5:44 (NIV)~
“Loving your enemies” is a phrase that can be tossed around like it’s mentally, emotionally, or physically impossible. Plain and simple: loving people can be messy, flawed, and filled with raw pain. And if you’re anything like me, loving people who have hurt me, in a way that Jesus calls us to, takes a lot of patience and time. It does not always come easily. Sometimes the easier choice is to impulsively react, instead of patiently reflect.
Emotions can be a strange thing, and too often I find myself avoiding them like the plague. Being vulnerable to feelings is scary, and allowing yourself to legitimately feel something may not seem comforting or even natural. What I’ve been learning lately is that emotions truly are a good and healthy thing. Happiness, sadness, joy, and even anger are all a part of being human. Even Jesus got angry when the Temple was being used as a marketplace. It is not the emotion of anger that is wrong, but how we react to it that we all must be careful of. It can be a dangerous outcome when acting upon anger abrasively. When it begins to control your life, the ripple effect can seriously damage relationships.
There are times where I want to yell and fight and throw my fists up in the air, refusing to admit defeat, yet feeling utterly stuck in frustration. Other times, I put up high walls around my heart, so I only feel distance and silence. I want time to heal and time to reflect on how to handle the situation. However, too often this internal regression turns into passive-aggressive motives.
Confrontation is way out of my comfort zone, and I would rather just put my big girl pants on and get over it. Whether I verbally express my thoughts or put a blanket over them, the struggle to deal with pain is real. And in the heat of the moment, giving grace seems completely out of the question.
They messed with my heart, so they don’t deserve my grace anyway. It’s only fair. That’s how life is supposed to work, right? Actually, no.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” ~ Romans 3:23-24 (NIV)~
Friend, that is the beauty of grace. It is never earned. It is never deserved. Grace is a gift freely given to us… key word here is freely. Our Heavenly Father sent His Son down to save us from our own sinful nature. Jesus chose to die for us, so that we may be freed from our bondage to our deep, dark, fiery sin.
We did absolutely nothing to deserve that, nor will we ever earn that kind of love through our actions. We are called to give grace upon grace because Jesus did the same for us. His love for us is deeper than the swells of the oceans. It is wider than the wondrous plains of the earth. It goes beyond the twinkling stars He lit up in the skies.
But how am I supposed to love someone who has betrayed me, hurt me, lied to me, scarred me, abused me…?
Good question, I’m glad you asked. You see, it’s not about what terrible awful things they did to you. It’s not about how long of a grudge you can hold. It’s not about justifying your actions towards them in order to accommodate the wrong they may have started. And it’s definitely not about passive-aggressively shoving the hurt you feel under the rug, just so the tension appears to be gone on the surface (which I’m 100% guilty of).
Holding on to anger doesn’t sound too appealing, does it? So what are we supposed to do with the anger, sadness, frustration, and confusion that stems from the hurt that people do to us?
What good does it do if we only love those who love us in return? Even evildoers can love other evildoers. Where is the righteousness in that? Where is the reward?
I tell you the Truth, when we love the ones who lie, deny, betray, and disappoint we will have great reward in Heaven (Matthew 5:3-10). Although living the good Samaritan lifestyle does not buy you more love from our Father, these deeds do not go unnoticed. I truly believe The Almighty smiles down on us when we learn from our mistakes. It warms my soul to think about Him saying to me one day, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Friends, you are not alone in your heartache.
For our beloved Jesus was betrayed too.
By his own friends, at the time he most needed one.
His own disciple, Judas, turned him in for merely 30 silver coins.
He was hurt; it broke his heart.
He feels your pain. He hears your cry.
He understands the confusion when you feel criticized and unheard.
“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” ~ Psalms 34 :17-19 (ESV)~
But praise the Lord for His goodness and His Holy perfection. Because instead of Him turning around and rightfully judging His foes, He acted in love.
The Cross shows us how much He loves us. He died not only for His close friends but for every single human being. The power of Christ’s death was for all sinners- the liar, cheater, thief, abuser, murderer, and prostitute alike. His resurrection is victorious over our physical and spiritual death. His wounds on the cross freed us from our broken bondage to sin. We are healed through His forgiveness.
Let Him heal your broken heart, for He will cleanse you of your hurting. His gentle voice will whisper sweet sounds of hope into your ears…if you let Him.
The forgiveness of all sins came with a price that was paid by our sweet Jesus. His death and resurrection was a gift of love given freely to us from that perfect sacrifice. By His blood, He took our shame, regret, impurity, darkness and called us His newly beloved children. He gave us grace, not because we did or said the right things, and not because we chose love over hate.
Maybe you are in a place where you need to be forgiven. There was something you said or did that was not productive or loving. Hear this: He has the power to forgive you.
Maybe you are in a place where anger has stemmed from being hurt and spiraled out of control. Hear this: He has the power to heal your pain, and restore a new heart within you.
Maybe you are mad at God for a loved one being taken away, a family broken, financial stress increasing, or health problems that appear like a punishment. Hear this: He has not forgotten about you, and He has the power to lift you out of the darkness.
Our sweet Jesus uses the sunrise each morning as a beautiful reminder of new beginnings. Yesterday has passed and fresh mercies come alive. Reconciliation with others leads us closer to His holiness. When we mend relationships with others, it strengthens our most important relationship with Him. When we forgive, we mimic what Jesus has done for us. When we extend peace, we glorify the Peacemaker.
We are sewn together by threads of His loving kindness. Let us freely give our friends and foes grace with a heart postured towards His light.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God Christ forgave you.” ~Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)~
I come before you today with a heavy heart. This world is filled with ups and downs, and sometimes those downs feel never-ending. Lord, I know forgiveness can take time with healing, but patience is wearing me thin. I have tried the whole grace thing, and it just isn’t working out so well. This person has left scars on my soul, and I don’t know how to move on from it. The pain feels like it won’t go away and my life will be forever changed. So how can I possibly forgive this person? It is so hard to love those who make me feel unloved and misunderstood.
The valleys are lonely and steep. The shadows fall upon me, causing darkness to drag me down. In this time, I recognize my exposed weaknesses. I need your help in every moment. I can’t do this alone. Jesus, help me to see your perfect plan in all things, including the hard times. Because the best part about being in a valley is the choice we have to look up and see Your holy light shining down on us, giving us hope.
Heavenly Father, you were able to graciously forgive me of all of my wrongdoings, and I am so grateful for that beautiful redemption. Your praise will be forever on my lips. Help me to love others the way you have shown unconditional love to me, so that I may walk in close communion with you.
Thank you, for never leaving my side, and continuously showing me grace upon grace. Help me to pour out unconditional love upon those who both love and dislike me. Grant me the patience and peace needed to overcome this battle. I can’t do it without you! I love you, Lord.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Featured Image By Chad Madden
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on sydneycarolinec.wixsite.com