I am so honored to have Lauren from Defying Depravity guest contributing today! I absolutely love her blog and the depth of incite that she brings. Please give her a warm welcome and go check out her blog!
Forgiveness. That’s the topic that’s been on my mind lately. I had to forgive someone recently, and it was hard to do. They had been hurting me unintentionally and unwittingly, and honestly I had grown slightly bitter. (However much the self-righteous side of me resents admitting that.) I let that pain affect my mood and decisions some days; others I could just ignore it and move on. But when I read this quote the other day, it made me stop and truly think:
“What is undivided love? Love which shows no special favor to those who love us in return. When we love those who love us, our brethren, our nation, our friends, yes, and even our own congregation, we are no better than the heathen and the publicans. Such love is ordinary and natural, and not distinctively Christian. We can love our kith and kin, our fellow countrymen and our friends, whether we are Christians or not, and there is no need for Jesus to teach us that. But he takes that kind of love for granted, and in contrast asserts that we must love our enemies. Thus he shows us what he means by love, and the attitude we must display toward it.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Upon reading this, I realized I was guilty. Not that this person I had to forgive was my enemy; far from it. But I did not love them as I should have. I wasn’t seeing them as a fellow child of God. I was guilty of loving as the world loves, instead of loving as Christ commands us to love.
It really is so easy to love those you get along with and who love you back. But to love someone who is your enemy, who has done you wrong, or hurt you – that is a different story.
That person who lied to you – they still need the love of Christ.
That person who hurt you – they still need the love of Christ.
Your worst enemy – they need you to show them the love of Christ.
As Bonhoeffer puts it, “Where is love more glorified than where she dwells in the midst of her enemies?”
To tie back to my first point, forgiveness. You cannot truly love in Christ if you have not forgiven your enemy. Truly forgiven them; not that silly game we played as little kids, verbally “forgiving” our friend only because our parents made us. When we forgive someone, it has to be sincere. It has to be heart-felt; if it does not come from your heart with all sincerity and truth when you forgive, it is not truly forgiveness. Do not say you forgive someone unless you really do.
You cannot truly love in Christ if you have not forgiven your enemy. Love is selfless, and requires you to let go of that bitterness, the pain, the resentment you hold. It may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but Jesus calls us to truly love, and to love our enemies, we must be able to forgive them.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. (1 John 2:9-11)
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."~Matthew 5:43-44