Thursday, January 14, 2010

Without Apology

I speak about love a lot, I love - love.  Love encapsulates the greatest commandment God has given us.  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbour as yourself." Luke 10:27.  When I entered into a personal relationship with Christ, my capacity and desire to love increased, but somewhere along the way my understanding of love, became a little distorted.

I can't point to the exact time, when things changed.  In fact, it wasn't until this past year, that I recognized, that in my desire to do this one thing well, I had swung the love pendulum a little too far to one side.  As a result my skewed concept of love left me chained in a people pleasing prison.  Heaven forbid, my own thoughts and desires should take precedent over some else's, especially if it might offend them or worse disappoint or hurt them. How dare I! That would not be very Christian of me or would it be?

I am well versed on what love requires, yet I have only in that last year, acknowledged and accepted what it does not require.  Love doesn't require letting people run all over you; love doesn't mean enabling destructive behaviour; love doesn't mean letting perfectly able people take advantage of you. In fact many times these actions are contradictory to love.  Jesus who exhibited how we are to love others demonstrated a proper love balance.  Love God first, love yourself and love others.  Love God first, because "we love because he first loved us." ~ 1 John 4:19.  Next love yourself, because the bible calls us to "love our neighbours as we love ourselves." ~Matthew 22:39.  If we care not about ourselves how can we care for others?  As we ensure our needs are being met, only then do we have the ability to effectively meet the needs of others, fulfilling the command to love our neighbour.  Sometimes in our efforts to please people, we cripple ourselves and walk in disobedience to God.

Jesus was not a people pleaser.  He stood against the religious leaders of His day, doing what was right, instead of what was popular. He drew away from the crowds, who admired him, to rest. He walked away from the demands of those in need to the comfort of friends, or to be alone.  He did this not from a selfish spirit, but so that He could best love on others. He said no to some in order to say yes to others (Mark 1:35-39). Jesus always spoke the truth in love, no matter how painful it was for those listening to hear it. God is full of grace and mercy, but equally justice and judgment.  In fact perfect love holds each of these in balance. Like Jesus, there are times that we need to walk away from the demands of others and escape into solitude or the support of friends.  There will be times when we need to speak the truth in love, regardless of how much it may hurt someone. There will be times when we will need to say no to the good thing in order to do the better thing. There will be times where we need to say no, to the requests of others in an effort to end the destructive enabling of bad habits and choices. We need to do these things in love, because of love, for love.  We need to refocus on loving not as we think a "Christian" ought, but as Christ did.

I've heard a quote that asks, "Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?"  My response is that in all honesty there are times when the matter is insignificant, and even though I'm right, I am willing to let it go in order to be happy.  Obedient to the scripture "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18

There are other times however that I am willing to risk my happiness, in order to stand for what is right.  I will risk hurting, offending or disappointing you, in an effort to see you draw closer to God. I will risk happiness, both yours and mine in exchange for Justice. Imagine where we would be if Martin Luther King did not stand for what was right, and instead compromised in order to keep the peace.  Instead out of love, he stood up and spoke out, he fought with love against the injustices of His day.   He demonstrated through it all, a balanced love.  A love of God, love of self, love of others. A love where wisdom couples with compassion and gentleness couples with strength.  Remove any of these components and our love is skewed.  This is the love of Christ that transforms lives and when we walk in Christ-like love, as Martin Luther King Jr. examples, we can revolutionize our world.

I notice in the bible that Jesus never apologized.  Of course he never did anything wrong, He was without sin.  Still, many of things He did offended, angered and undoubtedly disappointed people.  Jesus never apologized for doing right - He just did it.  I want to do be like that, I want to love God better, love myself better and love others better.  I want to walk in well balanced love.  I no longer want to make nice, I want to do good. I want to be able to confidently do what is right without hesitation or second guessing. Live doing right without apology.

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