In college I had a certain reputation for something (I guess I had a reputation for a lot of things *blush*). One of the things I was most known for was having a low tolerance for people being…well…people. I remember a close friend telling me, “It’s a little scary to watch what you do when people offend you or disappoint you. You don’t just cut them off…you obliterate them from your mind and heart. It’s like they never existed to you.” I retorted with a little chuckle and said that I just didn’t have the heart to tolerate as much from people. Then I slyly diverted the conversation by commenting how I had been concerned that she tolerated too much, especially from her current boyfriend. After successfully derailing the discussion I reflected on her observation and thought how she was grossly mistaken. After all, I had a simple and fair system of “tough love” with friendships. The system worked like this:
1. Offenses followed by a sincere apology would be forgiven, however, the criminal…oops I mean the friend would be put on my Watch List for a probationary period. (This is when I would begin to watch with great expectation for their next offense).
2. If the same offense repeated while the friend was on the Watch List, the friendship was terminated.
3. If the same offense repeated but the friend was off the Watch List, the friend was demoted to acquaintance until proven friend worthy again.
4. If an offense of greater severity was committed, regardless if on or off the Watch List, the friendship was terminated.
5. Special Note: In the case of relationships with boys, any offense was grounds for immediate termination.
You see…a simple and fair system.
So imagine my shock, after becoming a Christian, to discover that my simple and fair system was not exactly in sync with God’s standards and practices. This revelation started with reading I Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. (Ok sure…I got that) It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (Alright- I feel you…I can work on the resentful part) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (Whoops…you lost me)
Then I suffered a small seizure when I read Luke 5:43-48:
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
As a new Christian I was appalled. What in the ham sandwich had I signed up for???
So I said to God, “Why would You want me to set myself to be a ‘sucka’?” And God replied, “Who are you calling a ‘sucka’?”
Just a quick interjection, when I write or say that I was talking to God I don’t mean audibly. It’s kind of hard to describe but it like a conversation my heart is having with God. Ok back to it….)
So God replied, “Who are you calling a ‘sucka’?” And then I was like, “Th-th that’s not what I said.” And then He explained that I implied it. There were a few things about love and what it was founded on that I needed to know.
1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.
As a Christian, my ability to love people is not based on affection or personal inclination or because someone can successfully navigate a simple and fair friendship system (clear throat). I love simply because God loved me first. But how did He love me first?
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God sets the precedent for what real tough love is. He demonstrated love not by just tolerating His offensive creation that takes the little things He gives like heartbeats and oxygen one minute and curses and ignores Him the next. No, He demonstrated love by giving all of Himself to that offensive creation so they could realize (manifest) all that He designed them to be from the beginning.
So now, as a recipient of this tough love, what does He expect of me? Simply to do for others what He has done for me…to enduringly love others by keeping who they are (or can be) in Christ in the forefront of my mind and to be willing to have God use me, even when it hurts, to cultivate the great things He has placed in them.
A simple and fair system…but not easy. It’s tough.
What makes it hard for you to love people like God loves you? What scares or worries you about this type of love? Is there someone specific God is telling you to enduringly love?
Now that you have finished reading it’s time to SyncUP with God. Start by downloading this week’s “SyncUP Guide” below. It provides 5 daily guides on scripture reading, reflection questions, life application steps, and prayers to help you have your own daily SyncUps with God for the rest of the week. DON’T FREAK OUT…if doing all 5 this week is overwhelming, set a goal of 2 or 3 and work your way up from there. Enjoy and God Bless!
This week’s SyncUP was inspired by the sermon from Pastor Jerome Gay Jr. of Vision Church RDU. Click the button below to listen to the sermon.