Thursday, September 20, 2012
The Divine Commandment of Life
The focus of today's devotional is Matthew 5:38-48. Take a minute to read it. I've linked it to Bible Gateway for your convenience.
So today we are about loving our enemies rather than just those who we feel a natural affection for.
Beware of living according to your natural affections in your spiritual life. Everyone has natural affections— some people we like and others we don’t like. Yet we must never let those likes and dislikes rule our Christian life. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7), even those toward whom we have no affection.
The example our Lord gave us here is not that of a good person, or even of a good Christian, but of God Himself. “. . . be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” In other words, simply show to the other person what God has shown to you. And God will give you plenty of real life opportunities to prove whether or not you are “perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Being a disciple means deliberately identifying yourself with God’s interests in other people.
It's a real tall order, I know...but that is what God calls us to do and that is what being a Christian is all about. I don't really have too many people that are enemies...at least that is what I told myself initially. But when I really stop to examine myself, I know that there are people that I would rather not deal with. I am a substitute teacher. There are students that are difficult to like. I'll give you an example of a student that I encountered 2 days ago. Within 5 minutes of class starting, I had to write him up and send him to an in-school suspension room because he kept mimicking every word I said in order to throw off the lesson and amuse his peers (even while I was on the phone to the office regarding him). How do I love a kid like that? How do I love the teenage girl who rolls her eyes and lies to me when I tell her that she needs to put away her cell phone? ("I don't have a cell phone!") How do I love a teacher who treats me like "just a sub" who hasn't quite arrived at the grandeur of "teacherdom?" How do I love some neighbors (who have since moved away) who constantly picked fights with me and the other neighbors over petty or even nonexistent things? How do I love the special needs high school girl who's social skills equal an elementary school girl-and who annoyingly engages me in conversation and monopolizes all my time in class? (That one makes me feel terribly ashamed...but I am all about opening my heart here). So, I may not have enemies in the traditional sense...people threatening my life or trying to hurt me...but I have plenty of people that I can chalk up to being "enemies" in the spiritual sense. How do I love these people? It's really hard to do that! Sometimes, quite frankly, I don't want to love them.
I'm trying to learn this "secret" that Chambers speaks of:
The true expression of Christian character is not in good-doing, but in God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not just good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly. The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life, not in times of intimate fellowship with God. And when we come in contact with things that create confusion and a flurry of activity, we find to our own amazement that we have the power to stay wonderfully poised even in the center of it all.
The truth is that I cannot supernatural love others who I find irritating on my own. I can even "act" like I love them outwardly...but inside I wish they would go away. I want God to transform me so that in my heart I truly do love them.
Lord God, you are perfect. The only way I can love others perfectly the way you do, is if you put that love in my heart for others. I can't love them on my own. They are just too annoying. Help me to see them the way you do. Amen.
Image Source: "Ithaca Street Art" by Shira Golding. from Creative Commons.