Dealing With The Unloveables

9:41 AMHeather

It's a good news/bad news scenario.  I've got a pastor who speaks the truth unashamedly and boldly. Good news! Bad news... it hurts sometimes. My toes get squished and I am challenged. To live out this faith in a way that is radical and genuine and is something far beyond any religion or ritual. It's living out the beauty of the gospel story. 

It's taking to heart such truths as this. If I have a problem extending grace to others, then I have a problem receiving and understanding God's grace. Because if I really got the depths of his grace over my life, then I would not hesitate to extend it to others. I would not essentially slap God in the face by refusing to give others what he generously gives me.

See?

My pastor ain't playing.

OUCH. 

Brutiful. These revelations that still startle me. That after a lifetime of being in the church, there is so much that I have gotten wrong. There is so much to learn. And there is a beauty in stripping down the empty ritual and getting to the heart of it all. A beauty that is hard and wonderful.

So, this hard-to-swallow challenge summarizes the sermon from last Sunday. As we are going through the Sermon on the Mound, there it was. That part I'd really like to just gloss over. Can someone find me a version of the Bible that excludes that little part about loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you and loving those who hate you and giving to those who demand of you and offend you and coerce you?

Isn't that part of the Bible we can just skip?  

Because it's So. Very. Hard. I must admit. I think I've always had in my head that God sorta meant this but not really. Because I've allowed myself to think he doesn't really understand how people can treat me. He just sits on his throne way up there and somehow misses the details of some things.

Like ongoing relationships that wound me over and over and over. Like how I can be wronged repeatedly. And my sense of justice is pretty much over the top. I'm one of those, "but it's just WRONG and unfair" kind of justice girls. I'm way more concerned about fixing what's wrong in my world than fixing what's wrong in THE world.

Because I tend to think my little world is some exception to the rule. Obviously. God surely is on my side when someone is mean spirited or cruel or rude. That must make him mad, right? So it's okay to feel angry too and to seek to set things straight?

Or maybe, just maybe, since he's God and all, he just doesn't really get how it feels to us humans when we are wronged. It's a bit foreign to him so he is asking us to do this "love your enemy" thing without full understanding, blinded by his Godness.

Um, no. Big time no.

While these little rationalizations and justifications might permit me to act in my natural responses and reactions, they are a far cry from the truth.

Because, here's the deal. Here's where the sermon hit the application for me this week.

As I read Mark 14:17-21 the other day, while doing the IF:Equip study for Easter.

While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me -- one who is eating with me." They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?"

For the first time, it hit me. I had never seen this story for what it was.

It's Jesus living out the commands he has given to love his enemy. Oh, yes, he said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" as the Romans crucified him.

And forgiving a stranger who commits some grievous act toward you is surely incredible.

But this is a picture of loving your "enemy" that is more day to day. It's a picture of choosing grace to that person in your life who is just plain hard to love. Maybe it's a family member, so you can't really break the whole thing off. Maybe it's a co-worker? Maybe it's someone in your own home?

Those ongoing relationships that are difficult and contentious or wounding and challenging...that's a whole different side of doing good to those who aren't good to you. To seeking their well being when they never seek yours. To choose a radical love instead of retaliation. 

On a regular, ongoing, cyclical basis, day after day after day.

Because Jesus was fully human. And fully God.

He loved and relied on his disciples. He called them friends. They were his confidants and his companions and his travel buddies. They dined with him, ministered with him, and stayed with him. 

Sure, they were a clueless bunch. Being human and all, they often missed what Jesus was telling him. They often seemed to be aloof to the Deity before them and the story of redemption happening right before their eyes. The prophecies of old, come to life.

But Jesus hand picked these guys. These twelve. And they were precious to him.

But he was also fully God. He knew the plan. He knew how this was all going down in the end. 

He knew from day one exactly who and what Judas was going to do. He knew that one of his closest friends was going to betray him unto death for the sake of financial gain. He knew Judas was going to sell him out. He knew the part Judas was going to play.

So, with all this in mind, do you see it? 

Do you see the wonder of that little passage in bold above?

"One by one, they said to him, 'Surely not I?' " 

In other words, Jesus loved so radically, so thoroughly, so graciously, so unconditionally that these twelve men had not a clue which one was the betrayer.

Jesus treated every one of them no differently from the others. 

Even Judas. 

Even the one he knew would be the catalyst to his ultimate sacrifice.

Jesus treated even him in such a way, with no differentiation, that these men were clueless.

That is what Matthew 5:38-48 looks like.

Loving the people in our lives, difficult or loving, hard or kind, mean or caring...always for us, or always against us...all the same.

That is the standard. That is the call. That is living out the gospel.

Do you think it's hard?

 I certainly do. 

But yet, this is what I must keep in mind.

I was an enemy of God. I am the worst offender when it comes to denying his ways, ignoring his love, refusing his grace, choosing my own way over his. Over and over and over again, I miss the mark. Every single day. Moment by moment. I know better, and still I choose my own way. I call myself a Jesus follower, but I'd really like to go with my instincts. I attach myself to Christ, using the name Christian, but I continually place a million other things before God.

I am Judas.

Every single day.

But my Father God's nature toward me is love. Sacrificial, hold nothing back, offer all-that-I-need kind of love. His heart for me caused him to allow the highest cost that could be paid to make me his--to buy me back from my rebellious, selfish ways. It was indeed a high cost. To send his son to be wrapped and confined in flesh. To live a perfect life. And then to willingly die on the cross to capture me back for his very own.

The cross makes us sons and daughters. The cross says die to your own natural instincts and choose God's way.

The tomb says this is how.

The resurrection of Jesus from death to life is the power we can draw from to live out this incredibly high call.

To treat all the Judases in our lives as if they are John the Beloveds.

To exhibit a love for others, drawn from the well of the heart of the Almighty God, even if they don't love me. To love despite chaos and brokenness and wrong doing. To absorb the wrongs of others with a love that will melt the hardened hearts.

To choose as Martin Luther King, Junior did:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.

To seek to understand the glory of God and his incredible, unfailing love so that I am able to choose to follow his example.

As my pastor, JR Vassar, said, to choose to show mercy and let God handle the justice end of things.

Even if that means that you recline at a table with enemies and friends, betrayers and confidants, and no one can tell the difference, even if you know it.

Lest you think this can't be done...lest you think there are exceptions to this rule, such as the evil personified in terrorists like ISIS, then please, I beg of you, watch THIS VIDEO

Can you even imagine? What would happen in the world if we chose grace and chose love and trusted God for the justice? How would things look if those who say they follow Jesus actually loved so radically that others saw a difference? If we really took God at his word and remembered that Jesus commanded it AND lived it out? What if we quit yelling at people or about people or inciting drama and speaking our piece? And we instead chose to love and leave the rest to God?

It's what this world is hungry for. It's what we are all hungry for, at the end of the day.

A love that throws open its arms and says you are welcome here. Faults and all. No masks required. Because God shows me that kind of love, I will rely on him to help me do the same.

The darkness that might be driven out. The hate that might be melted.


Because we chose the applause of heaven over the vengeance of the moment.

And trust God to right all wrongs, in his way and his timing.

Radical.

Radical love.

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