Saturday, May 2, 2009

From offense to compassion: A journey of love

I have been learning some painful, precious lessons lately. It seems that the value of the lessons is directly proportionate to the pain that accompanies the learning process.

I have battled with insecurity and fear of man’s opinion. I know that this is the human condition in its fallen state, but I am so discontent with it. It colors my words, actions, and choices. I have encountered so many hurting people lately who manifest their hurt in criticism, anger, annoyance, and irritability. In my narcissism and self-centeredness, I have assumed that their behavior is somehow connected with me, my personality, and value as an individual. I have forgotten to take Christ’s eyes and to view His creation through His perspective rather than through my own. My own eyes distort reality, making it into a self-fulfilling prophecy of rejection, fear, and resentment. Offense is birthed out of this self-centered reality.

I am broken by this affliction of sinfulness. It is pride. It has been a process, and I find myself growing painfully slowly within it. Oh, the lessons of the average Starbucks barista! There are so many broken, hurting people. To see them as broken, hurting, and in need of love awakens me to a new compassion and understanding. Love sees through the exterior of hardness or porcupine-like spikes. These are defenses of fear and self-preservation. IT IS NOT ABOUT ME. It is not about my deficiencies or negative aspects. It is primarily connected with their internal hurt. It is not about offense or resentment. It is a plea for love, acceptance, and encouragement. These situations of criticism and hostility can be open doors for presentation of the hope and the love of Christ, the agape love, which is not contingent on behavior and acceptability. This love is the overflow of a heart that is saturated in the Spirit, which is being conformed into the character of Christ.

“Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it (it pays not attention to suffered wrong).”

This love is not natural. It is contrary to human nature, and even pop psychology. We assume “rights” as individuals. We expect a certain kind of treatment, but our Lord said that if the world rejects you, it rejected Him first. Christians can expect this rejection and even take joy in the midst of it, because in it, we are associated more to our Lord.

I am inclined to be self-seeking, fretful, resentful, and record wrongs that are done to me. I keep an inward tally of personal offenses, and as they build up, I rage and fume internally, creating a furnace of self-destruction and bondage. This carries over to other relationships and emerges as fears and dysfunctions that only eat at my heart and mind. The flesh cries to be heard, to be justified, to be seen for my motives and heart. I want people to understand the purpose of my actions and my feelings behind my behavior, yet I do not seek to understand their hearts and hurts that influence their behaviors toward me.

Oh Lord, let me see others as you see them. Help me to give them the grace and mercy that You daily bestow on me. I don’t deserve Your compassion and loving-kindness. In response to Your gift of atonement and reconciliation, I can seek to give the gift of grace and reconciliation to others. I can see attacks as opportunities to respond with love and light that will illuminate the darkness of their hearts. Love breeds love, and cycle can continue from broken heart healed to the next broken heart.

“The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted. He has sent me to bind up and heal the broken hearted.”

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