I’m learning some things about myself in this current stage of my life. I’m learning that there are a lot of things I just can’t do. I can’t always love like Jesus calls me to. I can’t always think the best of someone as Jesus calls me to. I can’t always respond the way Jesus does. I can’t do a lot of things over the long haul, when life is hard, and people challenge me, and circumstances seem way beyond me. I just can’t. I try. I try very hard. Yet, I find that eventually my love unrequited turns to bitterness; my expressions of kindness eventually give way to apathy; and my good intentions turn to not so good intentions.
So, what am I to do when Jesus says to “Love your enemies, and do good to those who spitefully use you.”? Oh, don’t get me wrong – I can give it my very best shot, and for a short time can do pretty good at it. I can smile, and give, and love, and care, and hope – for the short haul. But Jesus doesn’t say, “do this until you get tired of the smart remarks”. He doesn’t say, “love until it gets unbearable”. No, he says “love your enemies (those who despise you and never have your best interest in mind – those who attempt to hurt you and revile you) and then he even adds – “and do them well, and not harm”! He didn’t just tell me to do that – he lived it, to the point where those he loved sent him to a Roman cross piece while jeering him, saying that it was his own fault that he ended up there!
So, back to my question. What am I to do – Paul put it well in Romans 7:18-25:
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Last night, as I lay in bed contemplating my state, my reality occurred to me – this “good christian girl” who has walked with Jesus a lot of years can’t. But it also occurred to me immediately following “but Jesus has proven that he can”. So, my answer is – I must let him do it through me. He has proven that he can love the hardest of enemies over the long haul – no matter what they do to him or against him. Radical living. Unnatural emotions. That is the power of the cross!
So, Jesus, love through me. Respond through me. You can’t just teach me to do it – for that requires someone who can learn. It is way beyond me to do. So, just live through me. Is this what it means to die to self? Probably. That can be a very scary thought, but I’d rather die to self and live to Jesus – letting him live through me, than to go on trying and failing. Is this just giving up and giving in? Not really – that is the easiest thing to do, and I’ve done it so many times I want to throw up. No, letting Jesus love and live through me is the hardest thing until I let go – then I know it will become the most freeing thing I could ever do. For when I let Jesus live through me, I am no longer bound by the responses of others, I am free to live as Jesus would have me live regardless of another human being’s actions, words, and reactions. That is true freedom! Radical – yes! Unnatural – yes! But free!