When trying to love someone who’s offended you …
1. Remember God made them. They have a divine purpose. God loves them just as much as he loves you. To judge, hate or criticize them is to judge God’s law. (James 4:11)
2. Remember what a screw-up you were. Isn’t it tearfully wonderful to know that even when you were a disgusting mess, God loved you anyway? He died for us while we were in our sin! You’ve been a screw-up. You probably still are in a lot of ways. Others are allowed to be a screw up too. We all need grace.
3. Remember how much you’ve been forgiven. It’s no fun to remember my sin, and I don’t dwell on it. But when I remember how much has been forgiven, there is suddenly more grace and forgiveness to pass on to others. The more you’ve been forgiven, the more you’ll be able to love. (Luke 7:47)
4. “Do it until!” Love is a decision - an action, not a feeling. Choose to act in love toward that person. Bring them a coffee. Invite them along with your friends even if it’s the last thing you ‘feel’ like doing. Listen to them. Validate their feelings. Make eye contact. Smile. Try to identify with them. Or, if you’re really angry, the biggest act of love may just be keeping your mouth closed. These small acts of love are decisions. You’re doing this for God, not the person who offends you. Check out this awesome message on building character! (Building Character, June 5,2010) (favorite line = 'You can't just sit in the gym and have muscles happen, it's work!')
5. Remember that God uses all things for his purposes – even annoying or offensive people. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 He will refine you through this experience. Is it fun? NO! “No discipline is enjoyable while it’s happening, it is painful! But afterward, there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12;11 For that, we can be grateful.
How often, as you consider those who irritate you, have you thought "Well, at least I'm not as proud and judgmental as they are!" Oops. That is pride and judgment. How can we break free of finger pointing and hypocrisy?
I think the answer is, again, something I've written before and need to be reminded of.
a. Confess selfishness and judgment.
b. Thank God for forgiving our sins (“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” 1 John 1:9) Thank Him for the opportunity to learn and for continuing to work in us until the day of his return.
c. Praise God for His awesome mercy, wondrous works and for His love and wisdom.
2) Read. Crack open that bible and read – even if you don’t know where to start, or don’t understand a thing you’re reading. Satan is standing right beside you, trying to get you to stop. The phone may ring, you’ll have doubts, you’ll suddenly remember some important thing you need to do right away … Don’t let him deter you! Read that bible, honey. God will speak to you through his word. Seek Him, and you will find.
3) Continue. Even when you don’t feel the ‘need’, even when you don’t ‘have time’. Yes, even when you think you’re ‘good enough’ – especially then – keep reading and praying! The devil is a lion prowling for people to devour.
I remember having victory in this before. Why it's so difficult to repeat now I have no idea. But, I thank God for this opportunity and 'count it joy' that I may be trained in this way. This is how I will grow character, grow in relationship with Jesus, and others will see His light in me. This will be neither fun nor easy I expect, but here we go - dependence on God for everything, even my thoughts.
Lord, forgive me for my self-righteousness. I am nothing. I am sinful, yet you love me. You give me grace and mercy even though I deserve punishment. Thank you for your forgiveness and grace. Lord, you've made these people in your image. You've not asked for my opinion of them. You alone are judge. Lord, help me see them with your eyes and heart. Help me choose to love them. Fill me with your love for them, and the wisdom to know how to act on that. Thank you Jesus, for continuing to train me. I praise you for the good work you are doing in my heart. Amen.