I tried to form a bond, but the friendship, if you could call it that, was never healthy. Despite my best efforts, I could never really make a connection. Was the person just too psychologically broken to form a real bond or just selfishly evil? He spread discord wherever he went, stole from others, lied so frequently that it was impossible to trust anything he said. “Just walk away,” some counseled. “Cut your losses and move on.” I wanted to. Indeed, part of me thought that what he really needed was a harsh confrontation, a wake-up call. Yes, I was angry. But, anger is not a fertile place in which to grow godliness, is it? Having this man in my circle of acquaintance was costly in many ways! But, my Lord asks a different response.
Let’s get something clear at the start today. Evil is real. We must not be naïve and think that everyone is must ‘mistaken’ or ‘confused.’ There are bad people who do terrible things to others just because they can. Maybe it is an undercurrent of meanness expressed in rudeness and selfishness. Perhaps it is more malicious – that person who tries to take our job, steal our property, or divide us from friend and family. Then, there are those who are downright cruel – who want to hurt us.
My response cannot be self-preservation only. Another radical response is dictated for those who follow Jesus. He said that as a person filled with His Spirit I must primarily known for an amazing quality of love that includes a deep reservoir of forgiveness. “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect (whole, complete), even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NLT)
Think through His words in those real situations of life. That former spouse who treated you so badly, that business partner who used you, that friend who betrayed you, that child who grew up to reject your love – Jesus says, “Love him!” Prayerfully ask the Spirit to help you with the answer to this question: ‘how would I express a bold and godly love to that person?’
As you process this remember these things.
First, that kind of love is beyond mere sentiment and is more than benign indifference!
It is active. It comes from a deep work of the Holy Spirit, from a solid foundation of God’s love in our own life first. “We love,” the Bible says, “because He loved us first.” There is no way I will consistently choose to turn the other cheek, no way that I will pursue the well-being of a person I believe hates me, if I am not fully convinced that God is my refuge, my fortress, and my loving Father who cares for me. It is almost impossible to boldly love an evil person with an active love that overcomes their wickedness unless we are held securely in faith, the wisdom of the Word planted deeply in our mind and heart. Before we can give grace, we must know grace.
Second, bold love is not needy.
Much of what passes for ‘love’ in our world is nothing more than an expression of our need to own another’s affection. Healthy love that Jesus desires in us is not shaped around our emotional desire to be liked! A codependent person will continue to let others abuse and mistreat them in one-sided relationships. That leads to pitiful situations where things go from bad to worse. The kind of love that overcomes evil has little to do with our own needs. It has everything to do with meeting the other person’s need. Jesus did not need to become our Savior to fill an emotional need in Himself. He is God, self-sufficient in every way. He chose to love us because He knew we were lost. He moved strategically to bring about change. Is your love both wise and tender?
Third, bold love is hopeful!
Jesus’ love as the model in this, too. Our aim in loving those who are mean, cruel, or abusive is to lead them to the Savior, to call them to wholeness and transformation. He sees the person who is sinning, who is resisting God’s ways, and He loves. Likewise, we love others with prayerful hope that persistent love will overcome and sow the seeds of change in their heart and mind. Radical love is costly and those who choose to love like Jesus will pay a high price. In the short-term it often looks like evil wins over goodness. Love, as we commonly know it, is a weak and inadequate response in the face of evil. The love of God, working deeply in us, is a powerful thing.
Pray for a tender heart, one that refuses cynicism, that will not return evil to those who are unloving. This love is the prime evidence of the Spirit living in us. Here is a word from the Word: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:16-20, NIV)
You Are My King (Amazing Love)
Because You were forsaken.
You were condemned.
I’m alive and well,
Your Spirit is within me,
Because You died
And rose again.
How can it be
That You, my King,
Would die for me?
I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.
You are my King.
You are my King.
Jesus, You are my King.
Jesus, You are my King.
Billy J. Foote
© 1996 worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055