Love One Another

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Love One Another

It’s not a stretch to compare a kid’s birthday party to a war zone. I mean, 30 kids playing games, having a water balloon fight, eating cake and ice cream, and opening presents is certainly the fastest way I know to make your home look like the Battle of Armageddon. My six year old daughter’s birthday party was an all-out war that day, but not for the reasons you might think. You’ve probably heard the term “frienemy.” It’s a friend you lose sleep over. A friend who often looks and acts like an enemy. They are an “extra grace required” friend. This “frienemy” had been in my life for many years. We’d raised our kids alongside each other and spent a lot of time together, but our relationship had always been rocky. She and her family were there that day and toward the end of the party, she said something very dishonoring and disparaging about my husband to another guest, loud enough for me to overhear. I asked her to repeat what she’d just said, in case I misunderstood her meaning. I heard her right. She meant what she’d said. That afternoon wasn’t the first time she’d publicly shamed a member of my family, but I’d make sure it was the last. For years, her unhappiness with her life, marriage and story seemed to fuel her desire to cut down what she saw as the tallest tree in the forest…my family. Now, I can take a lot. Come at me with your anger, pain, jealousy, angst, and for the most part, I’m pretty good at standing there to receive it. Hurl your angry words at me, and I’ll catch them and hold them a while, because I know that sometimes that’s what broken people need… someone who won’t flinch at their worst and will stay, feet planted by their side for a while. But hurl that same venom at someone I love, especially my husband or kids, and I’ll bring the full force of my personality, power and position down like thunder on your head. She’d declared war on my family, and now I had to crush her. No more grace for her. No more relational diplomacy. The only reason I didn’t physically assault her was because several other people at the party restrained me (it took 3.) Instead I aimed my weapon of verbal retaliation and unloaded it into her. Over the years, I’d stockpiled plenty of ammunition in the form of secrets she’d told me in confidence, and I relished being able to turn those on her. I swiftly cut her out of my life, and I made sure she was met with “radio silence” from all of our mutual friends and acquaintances. Me, my family, our friends…we became a fortress she could not breach and we left her in the winter chill outside the wall. To us, she was nobody. ************************************************************************************* “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12   From the mouth of Jesus Himself…a red letter commandment. We (humans) are to love each other as Jesus (God) loves us. And how is that, exactly? God loves us with grace. He gives us His favor even though we don’t deserve it. He knows that for us, sin is pathological. We deny Him, shame His name and hurl insults at His Father. And yet, He loves. Why did the Lord need to remind us to love one another? Isn’t love our deepest desire? Isn’t it what we’re all chasing? It seems that if love was humanity’s greatest pursuit, then we wouldn’t need to be commanded to love. But, you see, we aren’t naturally lovers of anyone other than ourselves. Seeking our own pleasure, protection and best interest (i.e. love) is our instinct, so God knew we’d need a strong directive to love others, because others are not us…and we love us. Because all humans are made in God’s image, regardless of our spiritual condition, we all have the capacity to love others. But Christ Followers have special access to the Source of a supercharged form of others-love…Grace. Grace is giving someone something they desperately need, but don’t necessarily deserve. Showing others grace implies that we love them at all times, especially when they don’t deserve it, and therefore, when they’re hardest to love. This is exactly how God loves us. From His gracious sacrifice of His only Son on the cross, to His daily communion with us, God is constantly giving us what we desperately need, but don’t necessarily deserve. And grace comes in many forms. Sometimes, the undeserving people in our life need mercy and forgiveness. Sometimes they need sacrificial service even though they’ve done nothing to earn it…but sometimes we need to have the courage to show them gracious tough love in the form of admonishment, discipline and consequences. I didn’t do the right thing that day I cut my friend out of my life. My grace for her ran dry. My capacity for mercy reached its limits and I decided that I had a right to vengeance. It certainly would have been appropriate for me to confront her, perhaps even for me to remove her from my daughter’s birthday party and my home that night. Like I said, grace often comes in the form of consequences. Protecting my family is my job. But I went far beyond protection. I decided that she had wounded me, my family, and our relationship enough that I would snuff it out. Yet, as much as I felt justified, as much as I wrapped my actions in righteous anger, I was not acting in grace because I wasn’t treating her the way God treats me. In God’s eyes, I’d done the same thing as she had. I declared war on my Heavenly Father’s family. I spewed hateful words about one of His children, in front of Him, in His Home.  Yet, He never cut off our relationship. He disciplined me, but He didn’t stop loving me. Regardless of how many times I offend Him, Jesus simply shows me His wounds, the wounds I inflict, the wounds He suffered by me and for me that day on the cross, and says, “Take a little more grace.” I should have followed His example the day I ostracized my friend, but instead it’s been a lesson learned painfully. It took 6 years for even a vapor of reconciliation between her and I, but I have hope that Jesus’ super-charged love can resurrect even a friendship that died because of my sin.    

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