If I could pick one word to describe my last five years down here on big beautiful planet earth, I would choose the word;
I’m naturally an extroverted person and enjoy getting along with everyone. I’ve loved and appreciated the message of the Father’s love and how righteous I am in His eyes because of the blood of His Son. I crave knowing that He loves me. What I did not know is that this same God, who loves us so much, will lead us directly into conflict to transform our character to look more like His Son, Jesus.
I think many of the prayers we have targeted against the enemy are actually silly because it is the hand of the Father that is behind our current situations of conflict with other people.
When I started ministry, I simply wanted to serve God, represent Him well, and destroy the works of the enemy. I had zero clue that I would personally encounter so much conflict with people who are trying to do the same. Jack Deere gave me some advice two years ago when he said, “Never leave community because you will always find conflict there. And God uses conflict to transform us.” I should have listened better. I’m starting to get it.
Let’s be honest for a minute. If we want to, we can find something or someone to be offended at on a weekly basis. As a Lead Pastor, I hear about people’s offenses daily. All of us are tempted to be offended at someone for “hurting us” continually. This is not a new venture. Adam and Eve played the blame game. Nothing much has changed.
What have I learned? Well, what I’m asking the Father to help me with is one simple thing. I want Him to help me love people who are unhappy with me. Jesus hung on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” First of all, I’m not the spotless Son of God. I’m not always right. I actually do hurt people, even unintentionally. I’m not in a position to ask God to constantly forgive everyone else for “being in the wrong.” However, I am in the position to search my own heart to ask, “Do I truly love people I’m in, or have been in, conflict with?” Tough pill to swallow when the answer to that question is “No”. At this point, I’m actually growing in this area. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe its just Jesus working on me. I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t want to only love people who are “for” me.
I want to love people who actually don’t like me at all. Why?
That’s what He did. In the end, nothing else really matters.
In spiritual formation, it feels like we take two steps forward and then one step back. One week we feel on top of the world with Jesus and the next week we struggle with our faith. Through it all, He never stops asking one glaring question, “Do you love?.” It’s possible to be successful and influential and never love. It’s possible to be gifted and lead others well and never love. It’s possible to be famous and never love. The greatest leader of all time got down on His knees and loved His disciples in the moment when He knew almost all of them would betray Him. Spiritual Orphans only love those that are “for” him or her. True sons and daughters love those who are “against” him or her. Paul knew this well. My translation of his epic masterpiece is this: If I can lead, teach, and influence, but I don’t love, then I need to get out of this line of work. Help me, Jesus.
We are all a work in progress.