How often do we run into situations where someone does us wrong? Where someone treats us unfairly? Where someone offends us? Where someone falls short of showing us love, mercy, and compassion? Where someone makes our lives harder, difficult, challenging? Where someone does something that doesn’t fit with our plans? Better yet, how often have we done this to others? How, then, would I answer my friend’s question? And how, most importantly, would I follow up my ultimate decision with action? The next 24 hours would tell.
“I’m going to love,” I replied immediately to my friend. “I’m going to forgive. I’m going to pay what I owe. I’m going to walk away. Because that’s what God told me to do.” I had had enough time by then to seek the Lord’s face, and to hear what He had told me to do.
Wow. Me? Did I actually say that? Yes. Me, with the history of hurt, vengeance, retaliation, holier-than-thou, entitlement, rudeness, meanness, judgment, condemnation, and on and on. Yes, me. Why? Not me. But God. Because God can take someone like the woman I was and turn me into the woman I am. Now don’t get me wrong. I fall short daily. And some days are way worse than others. Some days are so bad I can’t even find the new woman. Some days I go right back to who I was. Ouch. Yuck. Just when I thought I’d left her behind, boom, there she is again. But overall? Overall, I’ve become the woman who wants to love instead of hate. The woman who wants to forgive rather than hold a grudge. And above all else, I’m the woman now who wants for people to see Christ in me and through me. Talk about wow. Pretty amazing. Totally God. For even when I fall short now, deep in my heart is the desire to do right. Perfect? No way. Way too far from it, in my estimate. But definitely on the right path. Not mine, but His.
After I told my friend what I planned to do, she prayed for me. I really can’t recall what she prayed, but I can easily remember how I felt during our telephone conversation. Hurt, angry, afraid, overwhelmed, and stressed – a far cry from what I intended to do regarding the people and situation. So how was I going to get from point A to point B? How would I go from hurt, anger, stress, and tears to loving and forgiving and creating the opportunity for people to see Christ in and through me? You know how Jesus said He is the way? Oh yeah. He wasn’t kidding. He is the way. Seriously. And He is exactly how I got from point A to point B with the situation I had shared about with my friend.
For when I had the perfect opportunity the following day to get the people in trouble whom I felt had hurt me, I did entirely the opposite. I told their supervisor the truth about what had happened, but I did it with a heart full of love and mercy toward them. Rather than exalt myself and lash out with hatred and indignation, hoping to get them in trouble, I humbled myself and explained how I wanted the people to see the love of Christ more than anything else. I shared openly that I have a history of hurting people with my own wrongdoing, and of how far I fall short of God’s glory – daily. I am just as capable of acting like the people who had treated me unkindly, I explained, as anyone. And I confessed that though the Lord has changed me, I still find myself falling backwards sometimes.
The difference now, I shared, is that I know when I do wrong because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I know when I need to seek the Lord’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. The supervisor listened intently as I shared my heart and about the work the Lord has, and continues, to do in me. It didn’t dawn on me until afterward that perhaps the Lord sent me there to witness to the supervisor as well as to show the love of Christ to the people with whom I had had the challenge. After all, how often do people walk into someone’s office where complaints are meant to be filed and end up talking about the love of Jesus Christ? Only the Lord could have led me there. Only the Lord could have opened the door into that office. Only the Lord could have opened my heart to fill it with His love. Only the Lord could have used me in that so incredibly unexpected way.
Little did my friend know when she asked me what I would do regarding the situation I had described to her how clearly I would end up seeing how far God has taken me. And the cool thing is that it’s not as though God has taken me upward and made me better. He has taken me down – humble down. To a place of humility rather than pride and arrogance with which I have traveled for so very long. I was able because of my own history and potential to do wrong to have compassion for those who had done wrong to me. And instead of standing in a place of judgment and condemnation, I now find myself able to understand two things. First, I can understand how others do wrong, intentionally or not. And I can understand that the love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness God extends to me daily is not only for me. When He pours it into me, it is not intended to remain only with me. I am charged with pouring it out into the world around me so others can see the love of Christ.
It turns out the Lord blessed me with a phenomenal, unexpected outcome to the situation with which I had been dealing. But the biggest surprise for me wasn’t the favor the Lord gave me in tangible, material, visible things. The biggest blessing was how I gave the supervisor a hug before I left her office and how I left with the strong conviction that I had been – and hope to continue to be – a vessel of Christ’s love amid a world in such dire need of Him.
43““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers,iwhat more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-47 ESV
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15 ESV