Are we there yet? It is the unrelenting question of antsy children on a long journey, who tire of the restraints which keep them from running and playing freely. It is the cry of the weary pilgrim, who yearns to reach his promised land. And it is the believer's impatient plea as we long for the day when we will leave behind the trials and sorrows of our earthly existence and finally arrive in that peaceful heavenly abode our Savior is preparing for us.
In my journey to become all God wants me to be, I have struggled...really struggled...with relationships that challenge me. Because of them I realize just how much I need to mature in my relationship with God. As a committed follower of Christ I know I should love the difficult people he has placed in my life, but sometimes it is difficult to model his grace and love them unconditionally, even though I recognize I am far from perfect and utterly powerless to change them. Their annoying behaviors bring out the worst in me, stealing my joy and sending me into a tailspin of self-loathing and condemnation.
As I contemplate and pray about this dilemma there are a few things that come to mind:
1. Jesus knew that we would have difficult relationships and taught us how to handle them. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:44-45, ESV).
2. Jesus called us to love others as he loved us, sacrificially. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13, ESV).
3. Without love, we have nothing and we gain nothing. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, ESV).
4. Love possesses certain characteristics. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, ESV).
5. Love is an act of obedience. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments (1 John 5:2, ESV). Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him (John 14:21, ESV).
There is so much more God has to say on the subject of loving others. It should be as easy as making up our minds to simply obey God and get along, right? Not a chance! But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't do our best, with God's help, to love one another, especially those requiring an extra measure of grace.
Even Paul struggled with getting it right, recognizing his fleshly limitations and frail humanity. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing (Romans 7:16-19, ESV).
Like Paul, I struggle with sin, particularly in the area of difficult relationships. And I know that what God expects of me is something I cannot accomplish in my own power. But Paul himself offers us all this encouragement: And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8, ESV).
When it comes to loving the difficult people in my life I'm nowhere close to where I want to be, but with God's help I believe I will eventually get there!
Copyright © 2014 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved. www.deedeewike.com
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