Had such a great time teaching and sharing tonight at Women's Bible Study on Valentines Day about "When Love Hurts." If you missed it, we talked about how to love the unlovable and how to love those who have hurt, offended, persecuted or falsely accused us. The Bible has a lot to say about "Love." In fact, it appears in various forms in the Bible 491 times.
We looked at the lives of Jesus and David to learn how to love the unlovable. Jesus was betrayed, hurt, falsely accused and endured a bogus trial, yet His love for those who persecuted Him held Him to the cross. David was repeatedly pursued by King Saul who tried to kill him multiple times. Yet David remained loyal to Saul and loved when it hurt. He was a man after God's own heart and was a true example of a worshiper.
Tonight we learned about five practical principles in how to love those who hurt or offend us:
1. You can only give what you have in your heart. Have we really grasped God's love if we are unable to love those who have wronged us or cut people off who we don't like or who irritate us? Love motivated God to send Jesus as the entire world's Savior...not just as your Savior - the entire world. We all know and can probably recite John 3:16. God's love is even for that person you have cut off for whatever reason. If you're having a hard time loving the unlovable, do an inventory of your heart and ask God to remove stones in your heart and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26, Ezekiel 11:19). God has exposed and supernaturally removed stones from my heart, sometimes on a daily basis. I am a personal testament that He is able to give heart transplants. But we have to be willing and available to undergo the procedure to receive His new heart of flesh. How do we make ourselves available? Glad you asked. Check out the second principle.
2. Loving the unlovable comes from a place of true intimacy with God. When you spend radical time in God's presence there will be no room for anything less than love. Raw time, unadulterated time, real talk, where you are brutally honest with yourself. When you abide in His presence He will begin to give you His love, because God is love. Read and reflect on these verses: 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:19, 1 John 3:1. Did you pause and read them or just breeze over them to this next sentence? Now really...reflect on those truths about God's love. He wants to give you a relentless love in your heart so you are able to give from a genuine and authentic space a love that you have in your heart (principle 1). But in order to receive this love that comes from Him you have to intentionally carve real time out to be intimate with Him so He can give it to you. How can you receive something so intimate from the Father if you have no real intimacy with Him?
3. Loving the unlovable means giving up your "right to be right." You may, by worldly standards, have every right to be angry, irritated and hate the person who has offended you. It may be something so atrocious they did. However, if you truly want healing from that hurt, you must humble yourself and surrender your rights to being hurt. This means stepping out of "victim mentality" and stepping into "victorious mentality." I have the honor of working with human trafficking survivors who have dramatically taught me this principle of giving up your right to be right. They have every right to hate their trafficker for the unthinkable things they have forced on these beautiful gems. Yet, I have seen the power of a woman forgiving and actually praying for the salvation of their pimp. Only God. News Flash: when you accepted Christ as your Savior, you gave up your rights. You were bought with a price. Healing comes from laying your rights down and humbling yourself. Read and meditate on 2 Chronicles 7:14 -- healing is tied to humility, which is equivalent to giving up your rights.
4. Love is a fruit of the Spirit and should therefore grow with time. Galatians 5:22-23 delineates the fruit of the Spirit and love is the first fruit listed. If love is a fruit it should grow with time. When a tree is first planted the fruit it produces are not abundant and are usually small in size. With the right cultivation and pruning season after season, the fruits begin maturing and growing in size and number. Similarly (since we know love is a fruit) the way I loved 10 years ago shouldn't look like the way I love today. When I first got married, I thought I loved my husband. 14 years in, I love him more now than I did when we first married. And 20 years from now (should God allow us breathe that long), I should love him in an even deeper way -- because love (as a fruit) grows deeper with time.
5. There is a wonder and awe in God's way of loving the unlovable that should draw others to Christ. Psalm 17:7-8 rocked my world this week in preparing for this Bible study!! The very first half of the sentence reads: "Show me the wonders of your great love..." As believers and followers of Jesus the way we love should be so unconventional and so profound and so full of wonder and awe inspiring that people are attracted and want what is inside of us. We are not called to love in a "comfortable" way. When people walk into our churches, they should experience a genuine and life altering love that causes them to not leave the same. Jesus made the religious people feel uncomfortable with the way He loved. He loved the unlovable -- the tax collector, prostitute, sick, lame, leper, gentile, the sinner, those who had issues of blood who were considered unclean, the demon possessed and on and on. He even loved the very person who betrayed Him (Judas) and called him His "friend" after the ultimate betrayal (Matthew 26:50). I am in awe and full of wonder that God loves a wretch like me. Who am I to not share that same awe inspiring love with those who persecute me?
Let's learn from these five principles and start a LOVE revolution. It may sound "cheesy," but seriously...this week will you take the challenge to love someone who really doesn't "deserve" your love? It's easy to love the lovable. I dare you to love that person who is so obnoxious, irritating, gossiping, backstabbing and every other label you have the "right" to affix.
Then feel free to leave a comment sharing a testimony of how God used your genuine and unconventional love. We are His love agents and someone's breakthrough and eternal salvation may depend on your obedience to "love when it hurts."
In closing let me say this. I recognize some of you may not struggle with loving the unlovable. In fact, you may struggle with loving people who continuously use you as a doormat. A family member once said this to me: "You and your husband love so deeply and are so loyal almost to the point of abuse." I have learned that it's okay to love people at - what I call - a distance. You don't have to repeatedly be abused, slandered and oppressed "in the name of love and honor." Love and pray for that person from a distance and allow God to work in their life. Setting boundaries is actually an act of love.
From a deep place, I genuinely love each and every one of you reading this...even those who may meander here who I may have hurt or to the contrary who have wounded me. May His love and grace abound in our hearts and overflow into our sphere of influence, our cities, our states, our nation, and our world. God is love.
Happy Valentines Day!