A few weeks ago I was enraged. The night surprised me because I couldn’t remember the last time I had gotten like that. An interaction with a loved one had my eyes blinking out tears and squinting to see the situation clearly and trying to settle my shaking legs and just not sin. I was hurt, disappointed and made to feel bad about the person helping me after the person had agreed to help me. The conversation ended with the person hanging up on me and me proclaiming that “I am through.”
I thought I had a right to dismiss the person; to me, it didn’t matter that we were close or the person had helped me before or that I knew the person was Godly and always had my best interest at heart. In this moment, my moment of deep disappointment, hurt and shame, my remedy was to not deal with the person on a certain level—to stop doing for them in the way they seemed bothered to help me. I was tired of this person, more often than not, detailing how helping me would be problematic. Tired of this glaring flaw, I said I was through with helping this person. God Himself would have to sit on my lap and tell me to help.
And with my words—my attitude—my chastening began.
Soon after my conversation with the person and fits of rage, I heard the Lord say “give your cloak,” referencing the scriptural passage that gives several commands of how to deal with your enemies. Though this person by far could not be classified as my enemy, I sure felt like they were in that moment. I complained to my husband, but he, like the objective guy he is, didn’t join me in my rage. Instead, he tried to help me be biblical, telling me I still had to help the person “because it’s the right thing to do.” But I didn’t care about right things; I wanted the person to suffer like I was suffering. I wanted them to experience the pain, disappointment, anger and frustration from being treated like I did something wrong after all the “right” I had already done by helping this person out numerous times. I wanted to turn off my love supply, let the person experience a love famine, and maybe the hunger pangs would cause them to not just long for my love but show appreciation for my love. I was in a bad way. I didn’t read the cloak scripture immediately, but as soon as my husband said “because it’s the right thing to do,” I turned to the scripture to get a mega dose of love goodness.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”—Luke 6:27-36 (ESV, emphasis mine)
I heard God that night but didn’t like what He was saying. So as I read the verses, I clucked my teeth, even talked badly about the passage because I have never liked it and really didn’t like it in that moment. It took two days, after praying for the person and for me, for me to receive God’s words. This is when I heard Him say “that is not the total sum of” who they are. “You can’t forget a person for one flaw.” Though I had heard what God was saying in the cliché “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” His words directly to me this night penetrated my heart and made me want to love the person in spite of their glaring flaw. Their flaw was blinding me from seeing all the wonderful aspects about the person and from seeing the love of Jesus in my life that we are commanded to give to others.
“[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is what the scriptures in Luke are saying. Do good for people even when they do wrong. Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins while we were in the midst of our wrong. He didn’t say “I’m only going to die for them when they get themselves together.” If He did, He would never have taken on human form to be born to die for us. In order for us to love like Jesus, we must die to our fleshy desire for revenge and love others beyond their flaw. I believe I loved the person in the heat of the moment, not raising my voice, being sarcastic or bringing up irrelevant issues just to “win” the argument, but the words “I am through” took me out of love and into sin. I decided I couldn’t love beyond the flaw. Whenever we do that, and remain in that position, we declare Jesus’ sacrifice not worthy of adulation. But because He commands that we love others as He has loved us, we are duty bound to love sacrificially—beyond the flaw—and we will be the better for it (Luke 6:35). Jesus’ sacrifice and ours are praiseworthy.
Take a Risk Challenge: Do something kind for a person whose glaring flaw has made you stop helping them. Perhaps, because their flaw may place you in physical danger, you must love them from afar but do so in a tangible way (in addition to prayer), like sending a card. Performing a tangible act in spite of their flaw is indeed a radical act of love.
My One Thousand Gifts List
An impromptu visit from Andrina and seeing the boys love on her
Money to download the worship CD “Alone” by Clint Brown that I’ve wanted for months
An outline and some writing on my discipline column
Hearing Lysa TerKeurst on the radio tell her amazing story of adopting two teenage boys from Liberia
All the boys being their own person at London’s birthday party
Talking to my postal worker about the state of Christianity
Marlin at church with her girls
Flynn’s challenging sermon “What Report Do You Give?”
A quiet evening of writing
Technical difficulties with WordPress that allowed God to show me the perspective I should have about blogging (why He has me doing so)