During a very difficult time in my life there was a person who entered into my life. Someone who was supposed to love me. This was the position in life that this person chose to be a part of, but instead of loving me she hated me. The truth is, she didn’t even know me. She had never spent any time with me. Although she was given several opportunities to spend time with me, she refused to. She hated me not because of anything I had said or done but simply because of who I was in this life. The position that I held that she felt threatened by. And that hatred was given not only to me, but to others in my extended family. She hated and caused great pain and intense heartache to those she should have loved and cared for. She brought separation to a family instead of togetherness. She tried desperately to destroy the bond of a very close and loving family, and in some ways she succeeded. Through this experience, I learned to hate. I had never truly hated before, not this deep, overwhelming feeling of hate. I may have not liked people before, but hate is so much different; so much more of an intense feeling. Hate fills you and consumes you. Hate will destroy you. It separates you from God’s fellowship and His protective covering. Your prayers will fall flat to the ground because unconfessed hatred and unforgiveness cannot enter God’s holy presence where fellowship is meant to dwell. But this person who was supposed to love me and my family, who was supposed to show us love and be an example of love to us, this person who was supposed to reach out to us in a time of our lives when we were all so deeply hurt, this person who was supposed to help bring healing instead inflicted pain and reached out with malice, contempt and hatred. And so, I learned to hate.
I knew hate was wrong but what was so much harder to handle than the hatred poured out on me was watching hatred being poured out on the people I loved so much and who were suffering at her hands. And more specifically this one very special person to me. This person who I believed I was supposed to watch over and protect but she lived outside of my protection. I felt so helpless. I was asked by her to not help, but to allow her to suffer on her own. I could hardly stand it. She would call in pain and in tears so often at the mercy of this person’s cruel treatment in her life and I could do nothing but helplessly stand by and watch and listen. And my hatred which started and developed from unforgiveness grew.
As my hatred grew so did the distance between my heavenly Father and I. I stopped fellow-shipping with Him. I stopped reading and spending time in the Word. I went to church for my children. If it had not been for my love for my children and knowing in my heart what was the right thing to teach them, I would have stopped going to church, for my love, although it was still there, had grown cold and stagnant for my God. Emotionally I was a mess and physically I was sicker than I had ever been in my life. Hatred, which is always the fruit of unforgiveness, will destroy you. It comes from the enemy whose one and only purpose is to kill and destroy.
But thankfully, the Lord never gave up on me. He brought people in my life to help me along this journey. He led me to a place where healing would begin. He taught me to forgive. And forgive, I did. Healing in my body and my spirit began to take place. My relationship with my Lord soared to new heights. Such sweet fellowship! As I learned to submit to the Lord’s authority and to forgive, He taught me to love even those I thought unlovable. For truly, no one is unlovable. It is not the other that must be changed, it is always the self. For if God loves all, no matter what, who are we to not love? Am I really so arrogant as to think I am better than the person whom I think is unlovable? Is that person’s sins any worse than the sins that the Lord has forgiven me of? A resounding NO! All people are lovable because love is a condition of the persons’ heart who is administering that love. It has nothing to do with the other person. What that person has or hasn’t done, should never affect the heart that loves. As I chose to forgive and purposed in my heart to love and committed myself to love, we grew close, the Lord and I. Closer than we had ever been. My love for the Lord increased momentously. Love and hate can never live together. One will always choke out the other.
And so, even in the midst of this hatred being continually poured out on me and those I loved, even in the midst of the lies that were continually being told about me and those close to me, I learned to love this person that hated us. But the love that I gave to her was on the very lowest level of love. I treated her with respect and with kindness. My actions towards her were in love and there was no hatred or unforgiveness in my heart towards her. What I did, I did for the Lord. But emotionally, I could not feel love for her. There was no “feeling” of love at all. And even though we are taught that love is not a feeling, but an action, shouldn’t there be some feeling of love when you love someone? I desired with everything in me to love her for my Lord and I truly did love her to the very best of my ability. I simply refused to allow myself to hate or to hold any unforgiveness towards her no matter what she said, did, or continued to say or do. Love is always a choice, and I chose to love. God’s word teaches that forgiveness is not always something we have to do just once, sometimes it is continuous. Sometimes we must forgive over and over again. And isn’t that what the Lord does for us? For how many of us have completely stopped sinning? I am so glad that God’s forgiveness is a well that never runs dry. And God’s word teaches us that we are supposed to be like Him. Forgiveness and love walk hand in hand together. Where there is no forgiveness, there is no love. And to love, even in this very basic way, meant that I had to crucify my flesh and the desires of my flesh daily. I loved out of obedience to my God and his Word and out of my desire to have sweet fellowship with Him.
Years passed as I walked in this level of love for this person. And then one day recently, as I was fellow-shipping with my Lord he said to me,
“I want you to love her like she never hurt you”.
“I want you to love her like she never hurt you.”
“But I don’t know if I can trust her.”
“I did not ask you to trust her. I asked you to love her like she never hurt you.”
And so this new journey began. And in a matter of just weeks, as the Lord, through his grace, helped me, I began to not only love this person more, but to feel love for her. As the walls began to come down, love began to grow. And she could feel it, too, because she expressed to others how we all of a sudden had begun to grow close! The walls are still coming down; love is still in the process of growing. There is nothing sweeter than sweet fellowship with the Father. And there is no sacrifice, no act of obedience that is not worth the cost of that fellowship. What my Lord asks me to do, I, along with His grace, will do. Though my flesh may scream and recoil, I will crucify it and it will submit. I will become more like my Father and I will walk in love towards my sisters and my brothers. Trials are never easy, but they bring about the desired changes, for our good, that God desires in our lives.
There was a man named Judas in the Bible. Most people know about Judas and how he betrayed Jesus. I think about how this man must have truly hurt the very heart of Jesus. Jesus fellow-shipped with him daily. He ate with him, broke bread with him and laughed with him. He was one of his close companions. Jesus sent him out along with the other eleven disciples to minister and perform miracles. Jesus loved him. And he never treated him any different than the other eleven. This is evidenced at the last supper when Jesus announced that one of the twelve would betray him and they all wondered who it was. They had no idea! Jesus loved Judas as much as he loved all his disciples and although he knew the things Judas did and would do, he loved him as if he never had and never would hurt him. I am sure that Judas’ kiss of betrayal hurt Jesus deeply. Yet Jesus loved him as if he never hurt Him.
There were people along the path in the course of Jesus’ last day that cursed Him, spit upon Him, and pulled out his beard. They hated him. Yet Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. Jesus suffered mercilessly at the hands of those who beat him, scourged him, mocked him and crucified him. Yet, he willingly forgave them, then stretched out his arms and died for them. Jesus loved them as if they never hurt Him.
I believe that Jesus’ feelings and emotions run deep. What man, besides Jesus, has ever prayed so earnestly that he sweat great drops of blood. Yes, His emotions run deep. Jesus loves deeply. There is no hatred in Him, for God is love. And if His spirit dwells within me, then I have that love within me and the ability to love even those who hate me and despitefully use me. Hatred does not come from the Father, so if I have hatred or unforgiveness in me, where does that come from? And can the two dwell together? No! So I choose to love. I choose to forgive. I will allow only love to dwell within me and will not give in to the desires of my flesh. Is this possible with me alone? No! But, through God and his grace, I will love like I have never been hurt. And the joy of this love floods my spirit and my soul. Thank you Father, for your mercy, love, and grace that is with me daily, empowering me to do all things through Christ who strengthens me spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I love you, Lord! I love you so very much! Thank you for loving me, always. Thank you!
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 NIV
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18: 21-22 NIV
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14