It’s easy to love when others are loveable, but the real challenge comes in loving the unlovable. For some reason, I’m surrounded by constant offense. Sometimes I wonder…
Why me, Lord? Why do I have family members who don’t believe the way I do? Why do I have children who rebel? Why am I surrounded by conflict?
Here’s what I’ve come to realize.
When the mountain of conflict doesn’t change, God is using the mountain of conflict to change me.
I didn’t come to this conclusion without a sumo wrestling match with God. For sure, I tried to find another route around the mountain. I tried to get a flight over the mountain. I tried to find a train to go around it, or a crane to move it out of the way. But planes, trains and cranes are of no use when it comes to certain mountains. The only way to deal with unmovable mountains is to go through them. The only way to learn how to truly love is to learn how to love the unlovable.
Maybe you’ve read the “love” chapter in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. The very first thing that God tells us about love is that love is patient. Do you know what King James calls patience? Longsuffering.
Let’s be honest, here. Who likes to suffer long? Off the record, I’d just like to say, there are a few verses where Bic Wite Out correction fluid would come in real handy.
Nonetheless, Jesus is teaching me how to be patient. When those I love sin, walk away, transgress or rebel, Jesus is teaching me to how to suffer long, how to be patient and how to hope. He’s showing me how to think the best of others, see the best in others and how to be kind when they disagree. I wouldn’t know how to love like Jesus if others always met my expectations, but to love in the midst of hatred, disagreements and disappointments transforms me first, so I can demonstrate the love of Christ.
Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you.” If that was his example, how can I condemn others trapped in rebellion and sin? If Jesus told us to forgive 70 times 7, how can I withhold forgiveness when others offend me? Disagree with me? Scorn my views?
Love never fails. Love suffers long.
Love NEVER gives up.
Nowhere in the Bible is this example so clearly demonstrated than in the story of the prodigal son. The father of the prodigal son released his inheritance to his son knowing full well that he would squander his inheritance. And yet somehow he knew his investment was worth the cost. Whatever it took for his son to find freedom was worth the price.
His son’s rebellion was audacious. He bossed his dad around. He thought he knew better than him. Sound familiar? Basically he told his dad, “I don’t want to hang around here anymore and I don’t want to wait until you die to get what I’ve got coming. I’m ready to go see the world and go do my own thing.”
I’m sure the father had a pretty good idea his son would party the money away. He had witnessed his propensity for wine and women and he knew his fascination with weed had nothing to do with starting a lawn care business, but his dad’s love was patient.
The father’s love embraced longsuffering. He knew a sermon wouldn’t transform his life. Only God and experience would. Only releasing him into a world of bondage would set him free.
Prodigal means an extravagant indulgence in sensual pleasures. Aren’t we all prodigals until we find Christ? We indulge our flesh in whatever makes us feel good until we realize that our indulgences no longer suffice.
That’s what happened to the son. He had to spend all he had before he got to the end of himself. It wasn’t until then that he began to crave his father’s love and start his journey home. And here’s the amazing part: He found his father in the same place where he was when he left home. Waiting. Suffering long. Loving.
The father had given his son what he demanded and trusted that God would work out the rest of the details. He never gave up. He never lost hope. He didn’t grow bitter. He always thought the best.
I’ve learned so much from this story. When I see others from my own perspective I will speak to them and treat them like Christy would. My words will be filtered through the lens of criticism, condemnation and judgment. I’ll be tempted to think they’ll never change. They deserve their misery. I’ll remember every past offense and keep records of their wrongs. In fact, I’ll make virtual DVDs to play over and over in my mind. I won’t trust them because they’ve never shown trustworthy behavior before. I will think the worst of them. I will be impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude and self-seeking.
When I see others from God’s perspective, however, I will speak to them and treat them like Jesus would. I’ll be able to see how the hurts of their life have bound them to sin, but because I know the Answer I will be able to offer patience, kindness, trust and encouragement.
I can’t open the eyes of others. Only Jesus can give sight and heal spiritual cataracts. My job is not to condemn blindness, but to love until Jesus opens their eyes. Because here’s the deal.
Love suffers long and love never fails.
Love moves mountains. It IS the most excellent way.
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray you would help my sister. When she’s struggling, help her to see beyond the mountain of her present circumstances. May she recognize when she’s walking in judgment and condemnation. I pray that you would give her the ability to love like Jesus. May you empower her to overlook offenses and walk in patience and love and kindness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Scriptures to Ponder:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” Luke 15:22
Questions to Ponder:
1. Who is someone in your life that has most demonstrated love to you? What did they do that convinced you of their love for you?
2. In verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 13 the NIV uses the word trust, however, the Amplified Bible says this: Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person. Why is it important to think the best of others? How does thinking affect your actions toward others?
3. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Which attribute of love is one you need to work on most? How can you strengthen that area?
4. You may have heard the quote, “Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.” What does this mean to you?
5. Read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. How do the father’s actions in the story exemplify the above quote? How do his actions encourage you to demonstrate love when others are unlovable?