Monday, 6 June 2016

Love is ... hard!

Choosing love is hard.  I'm the first person to say that I'm not the best example of how to choose love in every situation. When relationships get broken, when people do things that are mean and hurtful, its incredibly hard to choose the loving thing to do. But in my experience, when I was able to choose love, which only happened by the grace of God!, the strangest things happened. I was able to walk free, to let go, to forgive and to move on much more easily.

When someone hurts us, we get angry.  We want to lash out in return. I know I want to tell them off, tell them exactly what I think of them - which in the moment, usually isn't that flattering. Or I withdraw completely. I simply don't say anything, and I ignore them and their seeming stupidity. Apparently, when I get mad, I'm quite scary, but I think most of us are.
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So how do you choose love when you're hurt and angry?  Proverbs 15:1 says that a soft answer turns away wrath.  That doesn't just mean that gentle words will help deflect someone else's anger towards you, but that when you choose to use soft words, your own anger will dissipate faster. And I don't mean to speak in whispers, but to choose words that are kind. You can still express how you felt about their actions, but you don't have to be harsh.

The second thing I have found that helps is to not require "payment". When someone hurts us, it often feels like they now owe us something. They've somehow robbed us, and they need to pay it back. Choosing to love means that you let go of that requirement. It doesn't mean the relationship is restored, but you aren't angry or demanding anymore. They don't owe you anything. You take a step back from the closeness of before, but there's no debt between you.

When someone does something wrong, we are disappointed. I don't mean that they have wronged you, but just in general. You found out they lied about something. Or that they secretly have made choices that will hurt others. You aren't directly impacted by the other person's actions, but the character flaws revealed are disappointing. They aren't who you thought they are.

How do you choose love when someone does something wrong, but it doesn't really impact you?  First, the most loving thing you can do for someone is to tell them the truth. Be careful here that your motivations aren't to beat them up with the truth -- condemnation and guilt never saved anyone from sin. Gently telling the truth about someone's choices and the consequences though, isn't condemning. Especially when you are also talking about the grace and love of God, telling the truth is the most loving thing you can do.

You may also need to consider your role in their sin. With my ex, I needed to set boundaries, so I wouldn't be enabling further wrong choices. Sometimes boundaries are misunderstood as manipulative, but the point of a boundary isn't to make someone do anything. A boundary is just what you will do or not do in a certain circumstance.

Above all else, when someone is doing something wrong, the loving thing to do is to pray for them. Pray for their repentance. Pray that the hidden things would come into the light and be revealed. Pray against any temptations or situations or influences that are leading them into the wrong. Love means that you pray hard.

Whe
n someone attacks us unjustly, we get scared. We may also be angry and hurt, but the root feeling is fear. Gossip, slander, rumors, personal attacks and outright lies are hard to combat. They ruin reputations, destroy lives and devastate families, churches and communities. Being attacked when you've done something wrong or controversial is expected, but when you haven't done anything wrong, and the lies and innuendos come, its a very scary thing to endure.

How to choose love? Continue to the do the right thing.  Nothing shuts down lies faster than the truth. You don't have to justify yourself or protest, or even tell the truth yourself. Just continue to do the right thing, and it will come out eventually. Remember that God is our vindicator, and He will avenge us.

Be kind in return. Jesus said to return good for evil, and in so doing, your reward in heaven will be great (Luke 6:35). Being kind costs us nothing really, except a bit of self-control. When someone attacks you unfairly, being kind -- choosing love -- helps to overcome the fear.

This might the strangest loving choice, but take joy in persecution.  That's what unfair attacks are: persecution. We can rejoice because we know our Father sees, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12)

Reflex is the 1st thing we want to do, but ends in entrapment and further hurt. When we just react to the pain, disappointment, and fear, we end up no better than the ones who hurt us in the first place. Choosing God's kind of love is empowering. It's transforming. It's hard.. but so worth it, because of the freedom you get. When you choose instead of react, the power of choice -- the power of love -- is redeeming grace.

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