God will change our hearts as we surrender to Him. He will change our situations as we pray, but He changes our relationships as we love. Love is our boots-on-the-ground weapon against Satan! It breaks his power, one stronghold at a time, and totally disarms him!
So what does it really mean to love someone? Hollywood portrays love as a self-gratifying feeling that comes and goes. But Jesus came into the world to show us a higher level of love. He taught us that if we truly love someone, we will lay down our life down for that person (see John 15:13).
Satan is crushed under our feet as we wash the feet of the one who has hurt us. The person who has offended us doesn’t have to apologize or even deserve our love. The power of Christ in us enables us to love first.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)
I have seen God heal many relationships when one person took the initiative to love the one who had mistreated them. This doesn’t mean allowing someone to abuse us over and over again, but it does mean loving that person the way Jesus would.
In my own life, I have learned this lesson the hard way. Tired of living under my rules, my oldest daughter, Grace, left home when she was only eighteen years old. I knew she had met a young man, so I was not entirely surprised when just a few months later she broke the news to me that she was pregnant.
I was disappointed, crushed, embarrassed, and angry at both her and her boyfriend, Alex. Especially Alex. For several days I remember thinking that I never cared to see him again! That week in my devotional time, the Holy Spirit led me to read the entire book of First John, and so I did. The next day I tried to pray but sensed He was telling me to read it again, so I read it again. This continued and by the fourth day, I was getting really tired of reading First John. However, I kept noticing certain words jumping off the page: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
“But I don’t hate anyone!” I said defensively to the Lord. I could almost imagine Him saying, “Oh really, are you sure about that?” So, I prayed that the Lord would change my heart toward Grace and Alex. I never realized though, that changing my heart would involve action.
When I prayed about it, I continued to sense the Lord leading me to invite them out to eat. My first thought was, Invite them out? I don’t even want to spend my time or money on them! Maybe I’ll just invite them over for chili. But the Lord was very clear that I was to invite them out specifically to the nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant for Sunday lunch. So I reluctantly gave in and called Grace.
She and Alex were surprised, but agreed to have lunch with me that Sunday. When we first saw each other there was an awkward silence and I could tell they were uncomfortable. But I reached through the silence and hugged them both, telling them I was understandably disappointed but would love and support them and my new grandchild as we moved forward. Alex, surprised by my words, smiled with relief and said, “You know, Cracker Barrel is my favorite restaurant!” At that moment, I knew God was grinning!
I learned that the way I responded to this crisis would either show them the grace of God or push them away in judgment. How could I judge their sins when I have plenty of my own? Showing mercy opened the door for a beautiful family relationship as my husband later married them in our backyard!
We can allow hurts and offenses to destroy us or we can use them to destroy Satan’s plans by responding in love. When we choose to sow mercy, we will reap a harvest of mercy in our own lives!
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)
Lord, give me the courage to love as You love. Help me follow Your example and lay down my life for those who have hurt me. O God, love them through me! In Jesus’ name, amen.
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