It’s taken me a long time to write this post. I believe God has been working on my heart for a long time. It’s not easy to get to a point in life where loving enemies is a simple response toward the hate pointedly directed at me. I don’t have many enemies, at least that I’m aware of. And I’ve read over and over again about Jesus teaching His followers to love their enemies, to not take vengeance on them because vengeance belongs to The Lord. But for some reason, things are just a little hard to shake off.
Earlier this year my house was broken into. I was gone on a trip leading worship at a camp for high school students. My family had left to visit someone that evening and that’s when they came in. They defiled us. There is no other feeling that goes on in your mind. They’ve intruded into our lives, not just our house. Now they’ll forever be a part of our lives without even trying to develop a relationship with us that could have been based on love. No, they came and took what was not theirs. I was not home. I was away.
I’ve long imagined in my mind what might have happened if I was home. I’m also thankful that they didn’t come while the family was home. But moments pass when I long for a changed situation. Sometimes I would wish that I could beat the tar out of them. That’d surely teach them a lesson, right? If only I were home to have prevented this pain that has seemed to plague me for months now!
After situations like that things change at home. The doors stay locked. A dog barks outside and we go out to take a look. Every car that parks across the street in front of the park is suspicious. Every person that walks down our road gets a picture, like I’m the paparazzi. I’ve made them famous for nothing (that doesn’t really happen, but sometimes I feel that way). No one is trusted anymore.
I’ve had conversations with the shepherds at our church (our elders are called shepherds). They give me advice, things I don’t want to hear. I’m looking for permission to give them the beat-down I think they deserve. They tell me to love them…what?
Today’s reading took me to Luke 2-3 and Psalm 117. I’m reading about Christmas. I think for the first time it finally hit me. I came to realize that Jesus was just an infant. Truly an infant. He had to grow up. He had to obey His parents. He had to learn a trade. He had to develop muscles, drink His milk, take out the trash, go to school, and be nice to His siblings. I find it interesting that people were looking for Him before He was born. It’s like things were prophesied about Him or something. They new the time was near. It was close. And now He’s come! There are a few other things that jumped out at me about the account, but I won’t talk about that now.
Then I read Psalm 117, probably the shortest chapter in the Bible. A simple call to praise God. That sums it up. Then I looked a little deeper. I was wondering why verse two is translated differently in so many translations. It’s like they couldn’t get what the Psalmist was saying. So I did what all good researchers do, I researched. Take a moment and read this:
Psalm 117 (NASB)
Praise the Lord, all nations;
Laud Him, all peoples!
2 For His lovingkindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the Lord is everlasting.
praise the Lord!
Check out that bold word. That’s the word they’ve had issues with. That’s the one that made me study. It’s used 24 times in the Old Testament and translated 15 different ways. Weird, huh? The footnote in the NASB said it could also be translated “prevails over us.” So, “His lovingkindness prevails over us.” In every passage I’ve read with that Hebrew word in it, it had to do with being stronger toward, bigger than, overpowering, swelling to overcome, and even arrogant toward. Take God’s love toward us and use those translations with it. Then I looked at the last verse that used that word in the Bible, Zec 10:1 “I will make them strong in Yahweh, and in his name they will walk, declares Yahweh.” Then I thought of this…
God is going to show us His love no matter what. Not only that, it overpowers us in mighty ways. There is nothing we can do to ignore or run away from His love. Kind of like what Romans 8 is talking about (the last verses of the chapter that say there is nothing that can separate us from His love). And not only that, but God’s love prevails enough so that we can walk in His ways and show His love. His love prevails over us and His love prevails in us and through us. Follow up that with the fact that God’s truth is eternal, and thus the truth that His love prevails is also eternal.
Would it be safe to say that if His love is not prevailing over us, in us, and through us that we aren’t living in an eternal way?
This is what hit home with me. If His love prevails over me, then it prevails over those thieves that broke into my house. I can honestly say with tears in my eyes that the truth of His love prevailing over me has been something I’ve ignored toward them. One might say, “They deserve your hate. They deserve the full punishment, prison!” I agree. However, God’s love prevailed over me when He sent Jesus to begin as a baby, an infant who had to grow to manhood before He went to the cross to take my thievery and my punishment upon Himself. God’s love prevailed when God started as a baby. His love began with Christmas. And if vengeance belongs to God and not to me, then I’m trying to steal from God what rightfully belongs to Him when I take it upon myself to bring vengeance. And if vengeance belongs to God, and the Vengeful One has decided to overpower me with His love, they need His love to prevail over them now more than ever! Do you know how hard it is for me to say that?
What if the imaginations that creep into our minds when we relive things we wish we could have changed aren’t opportunities to think about how we could get back at them, but how we can allow God’s love to prevail? As one of our shepherds told me, what if God is giving us opportunity to pray for them? If they had never intruded into my life, they most likely will never have been prayed for. Maybe God has a plan for them they don’t realize yet and God appointed me to lavish His love on them.
When I heard that, it was like trying to swallow the largest jawbreaker you’ve ever seen in one gulp. But it’s the truth. This was a big lesson for me to learn. I have to “unthink” a lot of things. I need to retrain myself to naturally show God’s love in the face of these kinds of intrusions.
Can a believer really live this way? Jesus did. He asked God to forgive them even while He was dying on the cross, all because they didn’t realize what they were doing. God is calling His people to lavish His prevailing love on the intruders, the enemies, the hateful, the hurting, and the ignorant. Will you do it?