Last time I talked about how grace is a gift- how we don’t earn God’s love or acceptance by our behavior. He just chooses to love us. It is so good to know that God loves me no matter what! It means I can stop pretending to be perfect. I used to try to find an excuse for everything I did wrong, and I was constantly spinning the truth to show myself in the best possible light. I’ve learned that I can just say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry,” and it’s over. The world will not end if someone knows I messed up. If God isn’t holding it against me, why should I worry about what anyone else is going to think? The point is, I’m not perfect, and God loves me anyway.
If it is true that God loves me even though I mess up, then it is also true that He loves other people the same way. It is pretty easy to find excuses for my own misbehavior but I can be pretty bad about holding everyone around me to a higher standard than I hold myself. Somewhere I got the notion that it was my right and duty to judge people according to their behavior, and to punish them or at least point out their failures. I didn’t realize that setting myself up as judge was more destructive to me than to the people I was judging.
It is easy to believe that “God loves everyone” in an abstract way; but it took some growing for me to accept that “everyone” includes people I disagree with and people who have hurt me. He loves the rich and the poor, the leaders and the outcasts. Jesus ate with sinners, He fed them, He taught them, He healed them, He cast out their demons. Ultimately He died for them. He really loves them. He really loves us. Each and every one of us broken human beings is precious to Him. If God, who is perfect and holy, can forgive sinners, shouldn’t I?
Jesus said these things, and I would have to believe that He meant for us to actually do them.
“Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”
“Do not repay evil for evil, but answer evil with good.”
“Love one another as I have loved you.”
As I have loved you. The kind of love Jesus displayed, the kind of love He commands us to give, is radical, expensive, extravagant, boundless. It is the most powerful force in the universe.
My take is this: If a man insults you and spreads lies about you, speak well of him, do him a favor, buy him a cup of coffee. Repay evil with good. It is amazing what a little bit of generosity can do to change a bad situation.
If someone has hurt you deeply or repeatedly and there is longstanding enmity between you, you may not be able to buy them a cup of coffee. What you can do is this: pray for them. Every time you think of them, pray that God blesses them and brings good things to them. As you “pray for those who persecute you,” you will be released from the pain they have caused you, and it will be replaced by God’s tremendous love toward that person. Keep praying until the day you are able to look them in the eye and say “I forgive you.” At that point, it will be a joy for you to see them, and you truly will wish them to be blessed. The other person may be changed, or they may not. But the pain they caused you will be gone.
Love is the only power greater than hatred. In the end, love really does conquer all.