Loving isn’t always wrapped up with a nice, fancy bow in a beautiful package. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor. But how do we describe “neighbor”. Jesus calls us to love our brother and sister? How do we define our brother and sister? Jesus is clear about who our neighbor is: “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!” (Matthew 5:43-44)
Let’s look at this scripture a bit closer – focusing on the word enemy. Who is our enemy? What is the definition of enemy? Definition of enemy: a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something. What does this say to us? A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
The challenge: When am I an enemy? To whom or what am I hostile; or when do I actively take action against another?
The action Jesus requires…“We are to love our enemy – pray for those who persecute us.” Wow! That seems a bit extreme. Love our enemy – those who are hostile or actively taking action against us – and even a step further, against God. Has God placed us here to defend God’s ways, his laws, His Word?
So often we read, John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” But we stop there. We preach it, yell it on the street corner, and ask bluntly to those we consider not worthy, as we ask them, “If you die today, will you go to heaven?”
Wait a minute – let’s pause and read further. What about verse 17? “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” Jesus was sent into the world, not as judge, but “to save the world.” Looking at what this says, why do we take up the seat of judging. Stopping for a moment, when we judge, what feelings come up? What thoughts begin to take root in our minds? What actions are we driven to do?
Following Jesus’ example to the man who asked: “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man asked.And Jesus replied: “You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:17-19) “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” (1 John 3:15)
Continuing to read further, James, writes about judging in regards to our job: “Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (James 4:11-12; 17)
Ouch! Ask yourself: Where am I judging? Where does my sin lie in the act of judging?
Today, I write as a mom who is learning to love through difficult days. Many believers shout and yell, what is right, what is wrong, and how do you love and not condone the actions of children who are living outside Biblical commands. The answer to me is to first stop and realize the hard truth. My Biblical standards are because I have chosen, and make the choice daily to follow Jesus. I have received Jesus as my Savior, each day, I choose to live in the boundaries of growing in holiness through scripture. When I am asked, “How I love”, I simply reply, “We live with two very different worldviews.”
When I read James 4:11-12,17, my understanding is that I am not the judge. My job is to obey the law as it applies to me. This gives me the freedom as I see Christ doing in John 3:17, to love those around me, but not to judge. My prayer each day is that their eyes will be opened, their hearts will be softened, and through the Father’s compassion and mercy, the Holy Spirit will draw them to Him. I pray they will respond quickly to the HOPE of forgiveness, redemption, and restoration God has sent them, through His Son Jesus, and one day, too, they will choose to live within the boundaries of God’s grace.
You may ask, “How do I stay focused?” Through this season I am learning daily, to let go. As I let go, God reveals me the ways He is working both in their lives and mine. The little things become clear. The pain is deep, but God nourishes me with His promise that His eye is on my kids. When nights become long, the music I turn to in the middle of the night through Pandora brings my tears to peace as the Word of God reaches beneath the surface of my pain. My worry turns to prayer and soon, the daylight comes and I feel again, God’s care, protection, and direction for my day in obedience to Him.
My prayer for you today is that we turn away from yelling, loud noise, and judging. Today, may we quietly love – giving a smile, a silent prayer, a word of hope, a handshake, a cup of cold water. May we respect others in our conversations, speaking softly and gently, allowing the Holy Spirit to move through our words. May we let God do the judging, while we carry the love of Christ into our homes and businesses, onto our streets and neighborhoods, and serve those who are hurting, running, and searching for a deeper truth.