The Hardest Part
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;" Matthew 11:29a
As a Christian, I'm called to be like Jesus.
Be like Jesus. I take a deep breath. Jesus loved difficult people. He was flat out selfless. He served people he knew would turn on him. Still, he loved. He even loved people he knew would one day drive long stakes into his sinless flesh and smugly taunt him as he died a criminal's death.
Not even his closest friends were able to endure a day of sacrificial prayer for the Savior of their souls. Jesus gave and he gave, but they could never give back what his heart needed. They didn't have the capacity to love their Lord the way he loved them. Jesus' relationships were definitely one-sided. Except one. God the Father. He loved the Son perfectly and provided all the comfort his humanity required, while giving ultimate value to his sufferings.
Jesus might appear to be a doormat. He was no doubt used by the multitudes for what he could do for them--as many walked away, thankless, dusting their filthy shoes off on the ground he created. That hasn't changed.
I squeeze my nails into the palms of my hands. I refuse to be a doormat.
But, lets not be unaware. Jesus set clear boundaries with people. And he still does. His boundaries are grace and truth. Set in such an infallible way, he mercifully bestows upon mankind the choice to be in relationship with him—not the other way around.
Jesus was never a people pleaser--like me--but a God pleaser and a God lover above everyone else. This commitment hardwired him to love his enemies and enter into a loving relationship with them.
Be like Jesus. The crux of such a high and holy calling is loving people. Yet its the hardest. Loving people is so painful at times that my soul screams for release. Sometimes I despise the hard command—to love people. Especially people who come against me, who hurt me, who hurt people I love.
Sound harsh? Are you surprised? Or are you thinking, "Finally someone is telling the truth"?
Let's just be honest—loving others the way Jesus loves is not natural. Actually, its impossible. And pretending to love people "like Jesus" defiles my soul more than anything. Jesus wasn't pretending when he hung on that cross. My fake love is the greatest insult to his offered salvation. The often practiced fake-it-'til-you-make-it mantra is only a cunning appeal to my self-righteousness. Its insincerity--cloaked in niceties--lies to my heart that hypocrisy will eventually turn into love. Not in my strength, it won't. Only bitterness and resentment will flourish there.
"Just be like Jesus . . . love like Jesus", I'm told. As I write this, the answer hits me as to why a rebellious urge to resist God's supernatural work in me to love unloveable people moves front and center, aiming to push Jesus out of the way.
Its not because I don't love God, but because I love myself more. Loving difficult people, even praying for my enemies threatens that love. Threatens me. My soul screams, "I can't! I won't!"
Tears stream down my cheeks. In Jesus' presence, I am broken. Because my soul truly longs to love like him. It yearns for more of Christ to love like Christ. And with God's help, I am able to love him and love others—even those who hurt me—a little more today than yesterday.
Because God gives value to suffering.
I pause at that unexpected notion and I chew on it a while. It tastes like nothing I've ever experienced.
Father God, thank You for loving me. I am unworthy. My love is prideful and self centered. Please help me to love like Jesus. Please help me to love You. I can't love right without You. Amen.
"Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:3
by Dana Lange
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