Have you ever been hurt by someone? I have and it’s painful. Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to recover. We can easily become consumed with our pain. We distance ourselves from the person who has damaged us and try to recover on our own. Perhaps we talk to our other friends about what has happened; we look for reassurance in other places and we think we can just put it behind us and move on a bit broken. It is also easy to think, God will deal with them; they will get what they deserve eventually. Love doesn’t respond like this. Love goes further. 1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love ‘always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres’.
When we choose to make love our response, we have to choose to persevere because it is not the easy option. To persevere means to maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles or discouragement and we have to continue steadfastly. So if we choose to love we have to insist that our response is love. To choose love is sometimes an unnatural response but if we are in God’s family we have to work against the ways of the flesh and it is hard.
If someone hurts you it is easy to make that person your enemy. Perhaps they actually are your enemy, perhaps the pain has come because they seem to be against you and no matter what you do you can’t seem to win them over. I found these verses taken from Luke 6 from verse 32 onwards a real challenge:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
The opening question here stopped me in my tracks. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” The Message says, “Do you expect a pat on the back?” It is not hard to love people who love you. It is hard to love people who hurt you. It is also hard to love people who we don’t like, and if we are honest we all have people who rub us up the wrong way or appear to be our opposition. It is not to our credit to simply love the lovable but it does become a great credit to us if we can love those that our eyes tell us are unlovable. The fact is it is not up to us to decide who is worth loving and who isn’t. ‘For God so loved the world that he sent his only son’ John 3:16. Our Father in Heaven sent Jesus because he loved us: All of us. We have no right to decide who is worthy of that love. We do however have a choice with how far we go to love someone who appears to be unlovable. I have found myself in the past thinking, I could never come to a point where I love that person because of what they did but now I can say that actually I do love them. I preserved and it wasn’t easy and I don’t always like them but I do…deep down… love them. It is a freeing place to be.
Sometimes choosing love is a long process. It may involve forgiveness on a big scale. You might be thinking, ‘but you don’t know what that person did’ and you’re right I don’t, but I do know that if you choose love as your response you will always win. You have probably heard of the idea that things can make us ‘bitter or better’. Love makes us better. Our response can heal us if we let it. God is love and if we choose ‘Love’ He will make us better.
As we seek to find our place in God’s family we must be people who put each other first. I heard a phrase ‘Make their success your honour’. It stirred something in me because it is easy to say that of someone who you believe in, it is right but it is also easy. However, it is not so easy to say it of someone you struggle with. And to paraphrase Luke 6 “what credit is that to you?” It is a credit to you if you can say that of those who it feels like you will never be able to say that of. It is our choice to make it our honour to make them successful. Now this statement works if you are around these people, perhaps they go to your church or are in your family. This is the next step when we decide that love is our response and for the sake of the kingdom we must pursue it.
So what does it mean to make someone’s success our honour? It means as, Luke tells us, to do good to them. It means that we should actively seek to push the particular person into the things that God has for them. Sometimes giving up our own opportunities for them. Sometimes being the one who gives a word of encouragement. This can be difficult and I don’t believe that we should lie but I do believe that if we ask God to show us what he sees about them then He will show us something good.
For it to be our honour is a big thing. In medieval times honour was a word that was associated with knights. I had a look at the knights code of chivalry and a couple of points were quite interesting: ‘To live by honour and for glory’ and ‘To guard the honour of fellow knights’. The later statement reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:7 where we started. Love ‘always protects’. So we can choose to protect the individual who has hurt us. That doesn’t mean don’t chat stuff through with trustworthy friends, that is part of your own recovery, but don’t gossip about them. Also, if we choose to live by ‘honour for glory’ we must be people of integrity and, as the dictionary puts it, ‘be a source of credit: to be an honour to one’s family.’ We can be people who bring honour to the family of God and as a result bring glory to His name.
If we look back to Luke we see that it says, “You will be children of the most high.” We know that when we accept Jesus into our lives we become children of God but there must be an even deeper implication here in this verse. When we become a Christian we become part of the family of God. To understand we are His children can be tough to get your head around but here we find that our responses can help us find another part of what it means to be children of God. When love is our response we begin to remind others of our Father.
People so often say to me “you’re just like your Dad” and in so many ways I am, but wouldn’t it be amazing if that was said about us in relation to our Father in heaven. You may not feel like that would be a positive thing to have said over you when you think of earthly father, but if we lift our eyes heavenward, what if someone were to say to you, “ I saw how you chose love in that situation? You’re just like your Dad; that’s what He would’ve done.” To become a child of the Most High is easy (we enter in to a relationship with our father in heaven). To look like one is harder. It takes effort on our part but I guarantee it is worth it. I am moved by the idea that I am a child of the Most High. The One who is above all others. I want to be a credit to Him.
So as we look to find our place in the family of God we must seek to hear these words said over us, “You’re just like your Dad". Love always wins.