As I talk with people both in the church and in the world, it is clear that the #1 solution to most of our problems, hurts, burdens and aggravations is forgiveness and love.
For instance, what would happen if in every marriage both the spouses humbled themselves and loved each other... especially when the other spouse was acting like a jerk. Or what would happen if all of us Christians who were in church last Sunday went home or went to work and started to do the one thing Jesus gave us to do... love our neighbors... especially when they are irritating us. What would happen if all the teens and young adults who are rocking to Jesus songs in their ear buds on campus, treated people who were rude to them better than they deserved? If Christians loved unlovable people, and loved such people habitually, the world would be better. Yes?
Love changes people.
Here's the rub. Where in the world does all that love come from? I'm not feeling it when I'm not first receiving it, especially from the angry, rude, irritating people. I don't have it in me. And, I'm betting, neither do you.
So is loving our neighbors and loving our enemies just a nice thought for Sunday mornings? Do we hear the words of Jesus and immediately beg off because "we are sinners" and can't do it anyway? Or have we not answered the question correctly yet?
Here's the question again... Where does all that love come from? Not from Christians. Not from inside me. The answer is, “Love comes from God," (1 John 4:7). From God, through Christians, to a world that doesn't deserve it but needs it so badly. You already are loved with the abundant love of the Father, so, “Freely you have received, freely give.” There’s a lot more love where that love you have received came from! You don’t have to wonder if you have it or where you can go find it. You don’t have to chase after it or earn it. You can simply remember you already have it. And in abundance. In fact, way back when you were baptized, it was already settled. What the Father said of Jesus at his baptism he said of you at yours, “This is my son (This is my daughter), whom I love; with him (with her) I am well pleased.” That’s our starting point. That’s our source. That’s our True Identity. We are loved, forgiven, and pleasing to the Father. We have that. And in abundance. Remember it and then share it with the next person who doesn't deserve it but needs it so badly. “Freely you have received, freely give.” That’s who we are and that’s what we do.
It's the only hope for the world.
Now – deep breath… hold it… exhale – what happens when you actually believe this? What happens when you believe you are loved by the Father? Have you noticed? When you believe you are loved by the Father, joy starts to bubble up. You already had an abundance of joy in you, but it wasn’t bubbling up as long as you forgot you are loved. But when you remember you are loved, here comes joy! And on the heels of joy, do you now see what is emerging? Peace. Love and joy together call forth peace. And with love, joy and peace, look what now is within reach… patience. It’s always been there inside of you. You had it as a gift. You just forgot you are loved by the Father, so it seemed far away. But remembering you are loved jump-starts the chain reaction toward patience. After that, look what starts tumbling forth… kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness… and finally even self-control emerges not as an effort of our own but as a fruit of his Spirit and love.
Where does all the love come from for loving the unloveable, loving the jerk, loving the rude, loving the enemy, loving our neighbor or coworker or spouse who is irritating us?
Love comes from God. Freely receive. Freely give. From God, through us, to a person who doesn't deserve it but needs it so badly. It's our only hope. And then watch what God will do when we do so habitually.