God's Love :: Caring for the Soul Above All Else

Laying in the middle of my youngest daughter's bed, each child cocooning me on either side, I was silent in awe of God's fine handiwork.  We were listening to our nightly devotion, one that I would end up listening to well over ten times in the next few hours, listening closely as the Lord spoke these words into my heart so intentionally, so purposefully.

Podcast Title:  Love Versus Like 
January 31, 2018
Episode 96/62
7 Minutes

Tonight's Kids Bible Minute titled "Love Versus Like" is designed to teach our children that although there are some people who we may find it hard to like, before God, we aren't required to like that said person, but we are called to love them.  

"How does this work, though, mama," my young daughter quizzically questions. 

And she's right to ponder that.  As Landon Rowell says in his podcast, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22, no where does Jesus say we must "like" every.single.human, yet clearly, Jesus commands us that we are to love everyone.  But he never says it's going to be easy.  

Let's be really honest:  loving absolutely everyone is challenging.  

Especially the stone-throwers.  the mockers.  the liars.  the deceitful.  the hateful. the friends who know the truth but don't defend the truth.  the ones who didn't like us first.  the ones who make fun of our glasses or our widow's peak.  the ones who tell us we can't run fast enough or that we are ugly.  the ones who talk ill of us when we aren't around but love us to our face.  the ones who use us.  the ones whose aim is to separate and tear down. the ones who make up lies about us because they don't want to see our success.  the one ones who deceive. the ones who aim to strip our happiness.  the ones who intentionally hurt us.  the ones who break our hearts.  ruin our family. break up friendships. take everything we care about away.  the ones who shun us because we love Jesus or we believe something different from them. 

Finding love in our hearts for people who hurt us so deeply, so purposefully, so maliciously serves to be one of the biggest hurdles in most of our lives.  It is our temptation to justify that the hurt they have caused us gives us justification before the Lord to withhold love from them, but that couldn't be further than the truth.  

Do we have to like them, the short answer is no, but stopping there would negate the true meaning and expectation that the Lord has for us.  

In Matthew 5:44 Jesus says, "You have heard it said, 'love your neighbor but hate your enemy.'  But I say to you to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you."  So many of us know this to be true, but do we really live it?

We may not 'like' our enemy, but Jesus is clear that we must continue to love.  

As Landon Rowell says, "Love in the Bible means caring for the soul above all else, which means we love the soul no matter what they do to us, say to us, or how they treat us because we don't want any soul in hell for an eternity." 

Rowell's definition rocked my core and provided me with a foundational truth that I would like my daughters to carry with them forever.  

When we truly, deeply love the way God intends, we care for that soul more than we care for ourselves.  To love like God loves means that our first line of defense mechanism to seek revenge, withhold love, or refuse to forgive has to die with our old self.  

It doesn't mean we have to like the way our wrong-doers treat us. It doesn't mean we have to be pushovers.  It doesn't mean that we cannot defend ourselves.  

It simply means that we should love, above all else, like God. 

As Rowell continues, God is the best example of this.  In 1 John 4:8 it says, "Anyone who does not love, does not know God because God is love."  This poses a question, my fellow brothers and sisters:  if you are withholding love, are you really walking with Christ? 

I know what you are thinking...."Whoa, whoa, whoa.  But my situation is so different.  {insert a horrible tragedy of hate toward you or your family or loved one}. It's impossible for me to express love to him/her." 

I get it.  I truly get it.  To understand this biblical truth, we need to understand that while loving like God loves doesn't happen instantly, it is not God who prevents this instantaneous love.  It's our flesh.  We know that God is good and God is loving.   We also know that he hates sin, but He continues to love the sinner.  So shouldn't we, His followers, be able to imitate this kind of love?

In Proverbs 16, we learn six things that God hates, seven that are detested: 

haughty eyes
a lying tongue 
hands that shed innocent blood
heart that devises wicked plans 
feet that are quick to rush into evil 
a false witness who pours out lies
a person who stirs up conflict in the community 

"Now God is love and therefore LOVES even His enemies, which would include all those that do such things as we just read {Proverbs 16}.  But God also hates or extremely dislikes those enemies for what they are doing to themselves and others spiritually," says Rowell. 

And I repeat. 

"God Dislikes What They Are Doing to Themselves and Others Spiritually."

This is why we should be careful of allowing ourselves to believe that as Christians, we can withhold love.  When we are on the receiving end of the seven things that God detests, we are to cling to knowing that our Lord still loves His own enemies despite their sinfulness.  As does God, so shall we.  

How do we do this? 

Through God himself, reflecting His light of kindness, compassion and prayers for these souls to be saved or if they are a brother or sister in Christ, pray for their repentance.  As his born again children, our old selves have gone away and the Holy Spirit has equipped us with these characteristics.  It's important to note that not every wrong doing against us is a sin, but sin versus wrong doing doesn't change the hurt in our hearts.  For some of us, and depending on the situation, the thought of this is entirely overwhelming and that is okay.  To shine light and love is our goal, not our knee-jerk reaction (although how wonderful would that be) and is only possible through our Lord.  Simply put, our flesh is what struggles with giving this love. 

Now let's be really transparent.  

Are there any ways in your life right now in which you are walking the sinful ways in which God detests? 

are you allowing pride to hurt a relationship?
have you lied to edify yourself or hide your shame?
have you shed innocent blood out of your own insecurity?
is your heart plotting evil from jealously?
have your feet been quick to rush to evil out of hate or dislike?
have you failed to defend the truth, in turn pouring out lies, to protect yourself or someone else's failure?
have you allowed conflict to stir? 
does your heart desire for continued discord among people? are you complacent with discord among friends?

Take a minute and really read through what that lists means.  If you are walking in discord with anyone, and that discord lays on your shoulders, are you really loving? 

Have you considered how your actions, your withholding of love, is effecting others spirituality?  

My actions causing others to become spiritually depressed or sinful is something that strikes a chord with me.  I simply don't want to carry that burden and it is enough for me to choose love, choose compassion, choose kindness, and choose prayers up against persecution.  

Does that mean I don't fight internally, with my flesh, for justification?  Absolutely not, but I can go to bed at night knowing that I have loved like God loves, even when I hurt. 

This podcast, completely intended for my children, was such affirmation and left me awestruck at the ways of the Lord and His constant encouragement.  I can only pray that this solid foundation in my daughter's lives will take root and bring light to the world.  

Shine Your Light

It is my hope that this encourages everyone to dig deeper into our hearts and into our souls to really love like Christ loved.  It is so incredibly hard to do in some of our most challenging, painful life circumstances, but the consequences not only effect our personal relationship with Christ, but also, can be a stumbling block for other's walk with Christ, something that would pain me deeply to be responsible for.

When we respond to the fury of others with kindness, compassion and grace, it gives us the opportunity for others to see Christ in us.  Sometimes, this fuels the fire even more, but other times, it brings these enemies to Christ. 

As I sit here closing this post, I am thinking of those in my life who are in incredibly challenging situations in which pain has caused them to struggle with loving.  I have not always loved in return.  I have been guilty of a sin or two from Proverbs 16, luckily in my old life, and have no room to judge anyone.  I just want to encourage those who are hurting terribly that love truly does conquer all.  Dig deep, pray constantly, and live faithfully.  

With Christ, that love will find it's way to your heart and you won't even be able to explain it's existence.

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