But By Grace…

By April

Stop for a second, and try to think about the people in your life that you have either disliked, or they just get on your nerves.

Now think about the reasons you dislike them or they get on your nerves.

Is it because they have something in common with you? Do they in some way remind you of yourself?

Think hard and honestly.

The only people that have ever gotten under my skin were people who did things or said things that I found really annoying or inappropriate, but when I thought more about it, I found these things to be true in myself. Yuck.

It’s those same things we hate about ourselves that cause us to not tolerate them in others. That’s messed up. But its truth.

I’ve asked God to change my heart on more than one occasion about certain people. “Lord please change my heart, and take away what causes me to be annoyed or impatient with them.”

Funny. I bet the Lord gets a good kick out of that.  As if…

But I’ve learned it will always be a struggle to love people if I struggle to love myself.

Compassion doesn’t come naturally for a lot of people. For me, I am a pretty compassionate person. For most things. Puppies, whales, people who truly hurt inside, people who have just had a run of bad circumstances…  but with other things, such as flat out stupidity, or bad choices,  I’m like “suck it up sweet cakes. Deal with it.”

I’m so glad no one said that to me in my darkest hours or in my stupidity.

I have deserved it a time or two, that’s for sure. But for whatever reason, I was still shown mercy and compassion.

When I was sick from chemotherapy and living with a drug-addicted spouse who could barely make me hot tea, I had friends that loved on the both of us. After all, we were BOTH sick. But they could have easily bashed my husband for what he was putting his family through.

When I justified making not-so-good choices in response to having 8 years of marriage filled with lies and deceit, there were friends and family who still showed me love and mercy and compassion when I didn’t really deserve it.

So when I catch myself thinking negatively about someone I have to stop myself and think of the fact that they deserve love. Because if I do, then so do they.

Its hard to love ourselves when its so easy to find flaw. We are our toughest critics. We create reasons why God shouldn’t love us, but these reasons have no Biblical background whatsoever.

The Bible actually says the opposite.

Ephesians 2:4-5 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when  we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved …

By grace…

Not by deeds, not by perfection, not by our words…

But IN SPITE of our deeds (or lack of), imperfections, and words…..SAVED!

Man, what a relief.

If the Almighty loves you and me even in our stubbornness and sinfulness, then why do we think we have the right to NOT show mercy and grace to others. Why do we think we have that power?

We were given two jobs here on earth. To love God, and to love People.

Matthew 22:36-40 says

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So we first have to love God, then we can love ourselves, and only then will we be able to love anyone else. This goes for marriages and friendships, and even our relationships with our kids.

Our lack of love for ourselves will always show through in our relationships with others.

If you are like me, I have to take things one step at a time.

So, Step 1:

Love God- get in the word and learn about how much God adores you. Remember He doesn’t love some future version of yourself. He loves you right now, this minute, in all your messiness. He DIED for you a horrible death, and rose from the grave…FOR YOU. So that we didnt have to be perfect. The debt is paid. Done. The deal is sealed.

Step 2:

Love YOU. Stop creating reasons why God and people shouldn’t love you or even like you. You are only telling yourself why they shouldn’t. Help yourself to help yourself. Build yourself up in Christ. You only answer to Him, nobody else.

Step 3:

Love PEOPLE- Remember when people showed you compassion and mercy when you didn’t deserve it. Get to know people. Your entire opinion will change. You can’t dislike someone because they sin differently than you do.

 

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitudes of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8

 

Lord help me to not form snap opinions about people. Help me to put down my pole. Help us to build each other up as iron sharpens iron.

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