Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hmmm...Lessons of Love

August 4, 2008

1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son...

Love. That’s one ginormous four-letter word. It is a word with strength and power, and it changes things. I remember the first time my husband and I said that word to one another.
My husband and I both share a love for baseball. We spent many evenings cruising over to Bee Creek Park to watch little leaguers play; we would play catch with one another, have a little batting practice in the cages, or we would just sit in his truck sniffing the sweet cut-grass, stirred-dirt, cheesy nachos, hamburger-hotdog smell of the baseball park. Ahhh....we still enjoy that smell! It was a comfortably cool but typically humid evening on January 31, 2003 in College Station, Texas. We had been sitting in my husband’s truck at the ball field. I don’t remember what all we talked about, but I do remember the feeling of “wow, this is a strong emotion. I hope against all hope that he feels the same way.” Sure enough, praise the Lord, he did feel the same way!
Hearing and saying the phrase “I love you” changed my view on a couple of things. Feeling love—knowing love—gave me a tiny insight into the love the Lord has for me. I remember going to church a few days after our sweet exchange and having one of the most amazing and overwhelming times of worship I have ever had in my entire life. It all began during the song portion of the church service. The congregation was singing a song that minutely referenced God’s love and I was hit with a tidal wave of emotion. I knew love! I had a small taste of what it meant to love someone unconditionally and to have him love me unconditionally in return. All I could do the entire service was weep. Weeping with a joyful expression on my face must have made me look like a goof! I could not do anything but weep in the presence of my Lord. My husband loves me a whole, whole lot, but the Lord’s love for me is much bigger, much deeper. I could not grasp how vast His love is.....I still can’t.... That was my first lesson from the Lord on love.
My second lesson from the Lord concerning love has come as a result of sin. This is the intention of my blog entry.
It has been amazing to observe the effects of sin—notably in the past week. Someone sinned against the Lord in a way that left me hurt, broken, and on the bumpy roller coaster ride to bitterness. I love this person dearly and was heartbroken to hear the confession that this person gave me. Talk about blind sighted! The past week I have seriously been a soldier fighting in a war on the frontlines of my mind. I have struggled with my thoughts—celebrating victoriously at times but also falling to the ground wounded by entertaining thoughts of hostility. I have wept over someone else’s sin like never before; I have poured my heart out like a broken dam during a flood, and I am grateful. My gratefulness is the purpose of this discussion. It is not to make my good friend feel guilt, but it is my prayer that this points us to the Lord and his outrageous, gracious, loving-kindness.
As I have walked through the past week, the Lord has spoken to me about bitterness, forgiveness, and restoration. I will begin with a passage of Scripture from Romans 7:22-25.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work with my members. What a wretched man (woman) I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
As I pondered this person’s sin and asked the many “why” questions, the Lord used this verse to turn the mirror upon my face. As I stood before Him, the reflection staring back at me was not Christ-like. I was hurt by this situation, but what a wretched woman I am too! I struggle with sin just as my friend did and does. Not only that, the Lord used this passage to encourage me. I saw my reflection being marred with scars of resentment toward my precious friend. But I could have victory. Yes, I was fighting in a war against my flesh—notably thoughts of hostility and bitterness—but THANKS be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord that I wasn’t abruptly defeated! I could fight like a good soldier of the Lord. It is only with His Word in my mind and heart that I’ve been able to get “over” this in such a short time. The Lord speaking to me through the Psalms, especially, has brought me great comfort and strength.
What does this have to do with love? I love my dear friend so very much, and I cannot imagine my life without their sweet friendship and encouragement. My response to our conflict was huge! But why did they intentionally hurt me? How could I trust this person again? The Lord brought several things to mind. Numero uno: my friend did not intentionally hurt me. They simply sinned. Sin never affects just the sinner. It always has further reaching consequences, and it just so happens that those consequences came my direction. My cherished friend struggled and fell and it affected the ones that they loved. (It is of note that my friend felt deep conviction and followed it up with sincere confession and repentance.)
I have found it humbling and interesting to experience such a dilemma. I now have first-hand experience with the Scripture that says “love covers over a multitude of sins.” This experience has been difficult yet easy at the same time. What makes it hard is the sin nature fighting for retaliation and telling lies to my mind. But it becomes easy once I give it to the Lord. My heart was filled with anger but the Lord alone has dispelled the anger and given me compassion, mercy, and above all, love. Although walking through this situation was a great time of reflection and growth, it was nonetheless a tough time. I can only imagine what the Lord had to have felt when the Israelites sinned. Psalm 78 gives a good recap on the things God did for Israel and how Israel sinfully responded because “they forgot what He had done” (Ps. 78:10-11); they did not believe Him or trust in His deliverance (vs.22); they did not believe His “wonders” (vs. 32); “their hearts were not loyal to Him” (vs.37); and they grieved the Lord (vs. 40). God continued to feed them and protect them, but then the Lord rejected Israel for a time. Psalms 79-80 discuss the hardships Israel faced and how they beckoned the Lord for help.

Psalm 80:3,7,19
Restore us, O God, make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
After all the Israelites, the Lord’s chosen people, did in defiance to the Lord , the Lord still came to their aid. The Israelites angered and grieved the Lord. And though the Lord rejected them in order to “[give] them over to their stubborn hearts”, he never completely left them. Psalm 81:13-14 says that if they would just listen and follow the Lord, the Lord would “quickly” subdue their enemies. He is literally right there waiting to jump in once they humbly and truthfully repent and call to him. What unfailing love that is!
A-mazing! In this example, we see that the Lord still responds and saves despite his grief and despite their sin.
Furthermore, as I ponder the Lord’s love, I see 1 Peter 4:8 personified through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that he sent Jesus for us (John 3:16). “Greater love has no one than this” that Christ laid down his life for us (John 15:13). Not only does the Lord love us despite our sin and the grief that it causes Him; He loves us so much that He made a way for us to have freedom from the bondage of sin. Even more, He did that by sending his own beloved Son to experience life, pain, and death. That’s some ridiculous, awesome LOVE!
So what does this mean to me? It means that I know how painful it felt to have been sinned against, but I do that to the Lord everyday. How can the Lord still love me? His love is unlike any other—it is unconditional, unimaginably great, full of mercy, compassion, patience, and forgiveness. I love and have forgiven my dear friend only because the Lord has loved and forgiven me. Because Jesus died and rose again to rescue me from sin and death, I can have victory over sin. The enemy of anger, bitterness, and hate no longer overtakes me. I can love a heart-full of genuine love even when I am hurt. What sincere freedom and joy there is when true forgiveness takes place! Hallelujah.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
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. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.


lou said...

You better print this out and save it because you will be needing it many, many times in your life. Very well written. God's grace still amazes me.