Two themes that continued to show up on my door step this week were forgiveness and love. How do you forgive when you have been so deeply wounded? How do you relate with individuals who have lost themselves in resentment and anger? How do we move closer to love?
I found this picture on a friend’s post from Facebook and it spoke volumes to my heart. How do you experience God’s grace and not be moved? It has been my experiencing God’s grace and love that have moved me beyond myself to embrace humankind. It has been my deep experience of God’s forgiveness and mercy that have led me to a deeper understanding and empathy for our shared humanity. In that awareness I am able to open my heart to allowing the Spirit to heal my woundedness and help me to look deeper at the wounds of others with greater compassion.
How do we move past taking offense, or taking things personally? The reality is that people who hold resentments or anger toward another are struggling with some deeper challenge that goes beyond the perceived offender. I woke this morning to a post on Facebook by a local pastor in my community that put words to my heart:
“Loving Christ first and most is essential. Until we are loving Him, we love others only partially. And, as we experience His love we are free to truly love ourselves because we become secure in his acceptance. This in turn frees us to truly love others because our fear of rejection diminishes. At least it has started to for me. I learned a deeper understanding of grace and am able to love more freely ~ Mark Sale.”
Our deepest fear as human beings is disconnection – not belonging. We were created for relationship! Secure in God’s acceptance… identity! When we truly understand with our entire self – mind, body and spirit, that we are accepted, loved and worthy then we can move from the ego (head) to the heart (soul) and create a space of grace with the expectation, not that we are going to be perfect, but that we are going to get it wrong sometimes. And, in those moments because of the great love, mercy and grace that God has given us then extend it to others.
Cognitive Distortions – sometimes called stinking thinking - we all have them and they can torment our existence if we do not rein them in and surrender our minds to be transformed. Our thoughts are based on our beliefs and/or perception of our daily world and they create emotions that sometimes lead to self-protective behaviors due to fear and/or shame that we are not good enough – we start to judge ourselves and others based on this distorted reality that we have created in our minds.
1And so, dear brothers and sisters,a I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.b 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
3Because of the privilege and authorityc God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.d 4Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
6In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
9Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10Love each other with genuine affection,e and take delight in honoring each other. 11Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.f 12Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
19Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”g
says the Lord.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”h
21Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good (Romans 12 NLT).
Finding forgiveness for me was a process of surrendering to God all of myself – the good, bad and ugly. As God transformed my heart and opened my understanding I found my value and worth in Christ. I found a transformational relationship with unconditional love, mercy and grace that provided the security and acceptance of belonging. When I took the scriptures and embraced them deeply into my existence my perspective of others changed. I no longer looked at behavior as my guiding force of acceptance, but I allowed the Spirit to give me a new vision of Divine and Radical Grace – God’s creative imagination moving each of us toward our purpose and plan of being in His story. Letting go our need to control as the reality that God is God and we are not permeated my understanding! Embracing the reality that I really don’t have the answers and I am not able to know God’s plan for others or see the work that He is doing in that person’s life. God’s command is clear:
37“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.c”
39Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? 40Studentsd are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.
41“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eyee when you have a log in your own? 42How can you think of saying, ‘Friend,f let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye (Luke 6: 37-42 NLT).
Do not judge – very simple. If our focus is on following Jesus and surrendering ourselves to be transformed then I’m not sure that we have time to judge or attempt to fix others. I know that the more I am able to focus on Jesus and grow in my own relationship that I am naturally drawn deeper into love:
34But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’e 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’f 40The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 34-40 NLT)
I have adopted Micah as my life verse – sometimes I get it and sometimes my humanity overtakes my reality with stinking thinking! It is in those moments that I draw close to God and surrender my heart to be changed. One day at a time I grow in my understanding, maturity and love for Jesus. Everyday I am grateful for His great love and mercy – God’s Amazing Grace!
What can we bring to the Lord?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
7Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?
8No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
As we find our value and worth (identity) in Christ we can move toward forgiveness of ourselves and others. God’s love and mercy given with grace – grace that moves us to action with great love!
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
13And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
18Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19We love each otherb because he loved us first.
20If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister,c that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters. (1 John 4: 7-21 NLT)
The Body of Christ – The Church – See how they love one another! How I pray that we (I) will remember who we are and surrender our hearts to be moved to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.
We have a mission field in our local communities. You do not have to go to another country to find the call to serve. Grace starts movements… love moves beyond socio-economic status and stigma. Love moves beyond unforgiveness and judgement. Love moves toward humankind with creative vision and with great humility and empathy engages brokenness with healing. The Holy Spirit working among us in the story of God. Love – God is love.