“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:19-21
This has been a harder week for me in several ways. Over the weekend, I found out that there were some people that Deirdre and I used to be close to that were saying things about us that were not true. Because of some decisions that Deirdre and I have made, they were twisting things around, spreading gossip and urging friends not to associate with us. While previously I had not been angry or hurt, this time I was angry and hurt…I felt attacked. My initial response was to focus on them…to see how unloving they were, how hurtful, how in 3 months they had not contacted me…and my anger and hurt turned to sin…I stopped loving them. I stopped being patient and kind in my thoughts to them. While I don’t think I was envious towards them, inside there was a proud feeling that I was not like them. I did not feel like giving them honor and I was definitely angry. I definitely kept my list of how they wronged me. I was unforgiving and according to 1 John 4:20, I was/am a liar….
We get confused by the word hatred…we think of hatred as wanting malice or harm, but the Greek in the New Testament is much more subtle…one definition is “to love less, to postpone in love or esteem, to slight, through oversight of the circumstance”. It is critical for me to understand that when I stop loving, I start hating.
I don’t feel like I am alone in my response…I think all of us can identify with being attacked; how we feel, how we respond. The thing I have been wrestling with, is how do I stop being a liar and start being a lover? I think that the key is in prayer.
This year Deirdre and I have a house church that meets in our church; while we no longer meet on Sundays, we do meet throughout the week and over the weekend. When Deirdre and I were asked to start this house church, one of the things Deirdre and I were very deliberate about is wanting to build family, the close sense of community that has been built had nothing to do with this…it was something that we stumbled into. We decided as a house church that each week we would spend a significant amount of time together praying vulnerably for each other. When I have asked people why such a strong sense of family has developed, the top answer is because we pray together…and then get to watch God answer those prayers…answered prayer has been a scene that repeated itself repeatedly these last 6 months. When we pray together, we don’t pray for ourselves…we pray for each other…and the most amazing thing happens: we grow in love with each other.
Luke 6: 27-28 states: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Now I don’t think that any of my brothers are enemies (after all there is only one real enemy) but I definitely feel mistreated by my brothers sometimes. I have been confused on why I should pray for someone who mistreats me…yes it is the “loving” thing to pray for them, but what is the real reason for me to pray for them? Prayer can bring about an amazing inner transformation in me. When I pray for someone who mistreats me, I try not to pray selfishly about how badly their treating me, rather I pray that God will bless their lives, their families and their ministries. I pray about how grateful I am that God has made them my brothers though his incredible love and mercy. I pray about the gratitude I feel for the things that they have done and the things that they will do in the future…and as I pray the Holy Spirit starts to transform my feelings to them from hurt to gratitude…from anger to love. Life circumstances may prevent us from being together for some time, but as long as I continue to pray for them, I will love them the next time I see them. This is not a textbook example of how to become a loving man…rather it is a real life example of a weak and frail man struggling to become loving. It is causing me to search out who else I need to pray for? Yes I need to pray for my wife and children, and for those close to me, but I also need to pray for those who mistreat me. In the process, the Holy Spirit can help me become a man of love.
On a unrelated note, why have I not been writing as much lately? The spirit is willing but the flesh is definitely weak. I live and work Sunday night to Friday afternoon in Bush Alaska almost all the way out to the Aleutians. Every Friday evening, I fly home to spend the weekend with Deirdre and the girls in Wasilla. When I fly back to Dillingham Sunday afternoon with 2 totes full of groceries. (with milk as high as $10 a gallon you can understand why!). I keep the totes closed with zip ties. Two weeks ago this last Sunday I had just gotten home in Dillingham and was opening up my totes. I grabbed a paring knife to cut the ties and the knife slipped and almost went through my left inner forearm. The net result is that night, I was medevac’d to Anchorage where they performed a 3 hour surgery to repair my 5 seconds of stupidity. I flew back to Dillingham that Tuesday to work and have been at work since, but it has taken the last two weeks to really begin to heal and get back my ability to use a keyboard. I started physical therapy today and hopefully will regain the full use of my left hand over the coming weeks, but it is still sore and tender and I still do not have the full use of my left fingers. It has been embarrassing that I would do such a stupid thing. Please pray that I continue to heal!