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As a new Christian, one of my favorite books to read was “Jesus Freak” by DC Talk. The book is a collection of true stories about individuals who have stood for and given their lives for Jesus. It is amazing and inspiring to read these stories. These are people who have lived out Jesus’ instructions to us:
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.’ ~ Matthew 22:36-39
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. ~ Luke 6:27-28
These people have died standing for Jesus and the most inspiring thing is they do so while praying for and loving those who persecuted and killed them and their families. I remember reading these stories in awe and asking the Lord to strengthen my faith so that if I was ever placed in a similar situation I would be able to stand for Him like that and love my enemies.
However, recently the Lord has brought another scripture to mind for me
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. ~ Luke 16:10
Along with this scripture I hear the Lord whispering to me: “Beloved, can I trust you in the little things?”
Wow, talk about cutting deep. I start to remember that email I received from a co-worker the other day, the one where she threw me under the bus for something I did not do. I remember how as I read it I could feel the heat of anger literally start at the top of my head and pour down over me, leaving me trembling and having to walk away from my desk so I did not respond in an ungracious manner. Instead of praying for my enemy, all I wanted to do was blast her back and defend myself. I did not in the end, but I did let that anger fester and affect my future interactions with her. I did not pray for her or ask for blessings for her.
You see, loving our enemies is a grand and noble idea – until we actually have to put it into practice. Then we realize how very much we need the Lord to transform our hearts because we are not even capable of truly loving our family and friends, let alone our enemies. Our natural tendency is to defend ourselves, to feel entitled to be offended, hurt or angry. Only through God’s transformation process can we face these situations in our lives with a focus first on God and then on loving others, instead of focusing on ourselves.
A few months back, my husband and I got into a disagreement. I honestly don’t even remember what it was about. I do know I was angry and even though I knew the Lord wanted me to let it go, I was determined to wallow in my anger and hurt because I deserved it! (Oh, how we love to wallow in self-pity!) I had to go run some errands and I took my son (then 4 years old) with me. As we left he wanted to sing. I told him Mommy was not in the mood to sing but he could if he wanted. He started to sing a tune that I had taught him. It is called “Be Careful Little Eyes”. We’ve added other verses such as “be careful little hands, feet and ears”. But this day he added his own verse which we had never talked about before. As I drove down the road, blissfully wallowing in my self-pity and anger, my son’s sweet precious voice began to sing:
“Be careful little heart what you feel,
Be careful little heart what you feel,
Because the Father up above is looking down with love,
So be careful little heart what you feel.”
Amazing how God can speak to us through our children, the very ones we are supposed to be raising up and teaching the ways of the Lord to!
In our anger, we need to make sure we are turning our ears to the whisper of the Lord. He usually will not shout at us. He leaves it up to us to listen and follow His voice. We need to listen for His whisper telling us to love those around us instead of the world’s shout that says we are entitled to our anger. No matter how “right” we are in being angry at someone else’s actions or words, the Lord calls us to love. We have to decide what to focus on, what to obey and follow – the world’s view of what we are entitled to or the Lord’s whisper to deny ourselves and love as He loves us.
Over the past months I’ve been struggling with a question which I now believe the Lord put on my heart. How do you stand for God’s Truth in Love?
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16
I’ve compared this to us walking a very narrow path with two very wide and deep ditches on each side. On one side is the Ditch of God’s Truth. This is where we fall when we focus on God’s Truth, His Righteousness and His Holiness. The other side is the Ditch of God’s Love. This is where we fall when we focus on God’s Love, Grace and Mercy. Neither appears to be a bad place to walk and they are easier to walk in because they are so wide! But the true character of our God is made up of both His Righteousness and His Grace. Our human nature has a very hard time combining these two characteristics. It is difficult for us to separate the sin from the sinner. We forget that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against things that are unseen to our natural eyes. The only way we can walk this narrow path is to focus on Jesus in front of us, leading us. We must open our hearts and minds to Him and Him alone.
As with my other prayers, God is answering this one as well. I tend to be a hands-on learner, and the Lord is teaching in the same way. He is showing me how to stand for His Truth in Love by having me do it in my daily life, in the little things - at work, at home, with my husband, my children, my friends, even strangers. I stumble and fall into one ditch or another more often than I can count. But I know that as soon as I’m done feeling sorry for myself and look to Him, He’ll be there holding out His hand, ready to pull me back up on the path and dust off the muck and mire.
Are you on the narrow path, focused on Jesus right now? Or are you walking in one of those wide ditches? In your anger, are you able to hear the whisper of the Lord and do you heed it? Are you able to separate the sin from the sinner? Are you able to stand for God’s Truth in Love? No? Then, are you ready to ask Him to give you the strength and wisdom to do so? Are you ready for some hands-on learning?
We ask that you transform our minds and hearts to love the way you love. Please keep us from anger and offense. Please help us to learn to hear your whisper in these times and to yield to You and Your desires for us. Give us wisdom to remember our battle is not against others, but forces and human nature which is unseen. Help us to separate the sin from the sinner. To stand in Your Truth against the sin, but to love the sinner as You love them. Give us Your Mind, Your Eyes, Your Heart!
In Jesus’ Precious Name,