I wanted to begin this by asking you a couple questions. I’d like for you to be vulnerable. I’d like for you to delve internally. I’d like for you to be honest.
What is your disposition on those you disagree with…on those you are not fond of? Where does your heart lie? Do you hope to see people radically changed through God’s word? Or do you take pleasure in the defeat of those you cannot cannot see eye-to-eye?
It’s much easier to admit the latter, you may have felt it. More likely than not, we have felt that in some capacity and to some extent. I preach justice and my motives are not to negate the lawful consequences of people’s wrongdoings- this is simply the conversation in the matter of your heart.
The Book of Jonah emphasizes these points so beautifully.
God sends Jonah to the sinning city of Nineveh to warn them of what will happen to their city if they don’t change their ways and repent. Jonah despised the people of Nineveh and felt that they should get what they deserved. He knew of God’s merciful character and knew that if he’d gone to speak to them, God would end up saving them. Jonah strongly believes those people are undeserving of God’s grace and so his reluctance and displeasure exteriorizes at the request of God. Despite this, Jonah goes to city of Nineveh to announce, “In 40 days Nineveh will be destroyed,” and the people of Nineveh believe God’s warning through Jonah and proceed to fast and engage in practices that try and seek God’s forgiveness. Our loving and patient God always sends a warning for those that choose to hear it because He always wants us to be His. Once God shows Nineveh His saving grace, Jonah begins to pray.
He then carries a sinful response in his heart that his “enemies” (those he is not fond of) didn’t deserve and shouldn’t have been saved. By feeling this strong disdain though, he negates that God too saved him at a time when he was undeserving. He negates how glorious it felt to receive God’s mercy and instead of praying for their hearts to be changed through God’s word, he rests in his animosity towards the people of Nineveh.
This sinful response that we see in Jonah still lies in some of our hearts. You can see different magnitudes of it in our society. There are many people who genuinely love God and people except when it comes to that person that has wronged you or that group of people who’s oppressed you…our attitudes become more like Jonah than we’d like to admit. I didn’t quite walk with God growing up till this last year and now I reside in peace because we need to recognize that God loves us all the same and we forget this when we intentionally or unintentionally put ourselves on a pedestal above others. This means we falsely believe we are more worthy/deserving than another. We tend to forget that at one point or another we deserved the wrath of God; we are all sinners. But instead of giving us wrath, he gives us mercy when He gave up his only son on the cross.
“This should be the longing of our hearts for God to pour their mercy onto them.” -The Austin Stone
Any bit of hatred that has found its home in our hearts will affect our nature and being before it reflects outwardly on our world. Sometimes, the last thing we want to see is God’s grace and mercy be poured onto someone we don’t find deserving. At times people are struggling to find peace in their own insecurities and issues that we cannot see and understand in all of its depth, and so all we can do in that moment is pray for them. Pray for your heart to be more aligned with the forgiveness + graciousness of God and pray for others in the very same way. God’s word was what I longed for and found, and I hope for others to find the wisdom and prevailing love in them as well. Judgement stems from ego that doesn’t come from God, and letting those feelings burrow in your heart does you no good.
I recognize that it’s much easier to judge people for their poor perceptions of others because we tend to regard our reasonings as more in light of reality. We become self-centered in this way. We lose the heart of Jesus and gain the heart of Jonah when we declare we have better judgement over God (in any regard). I pray that we don’t stray too far from Jesus’ character in a world where we’ve grown tired of continuous disappointment, loss and wronging. Neither one of us is perfect and I certainly am not; although, the best place to start is when your heart is in the right place.
Love for Enemies | Matthew 5:43-46 NIV43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
The mark of knowing you’re a child of God is not how you treat people you love but how you treat people you do not. Jesus didn’t just say to love your enemies, he actually did it. Example: “50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more” of this! And He touched the man’s ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:50-51)
Suffering at the hands of this person or that group didn’t alter His heart: one of the things I admire most about Jesus. Jesus died for a bunch of sinners. The greatest love story I’ll ever know is how we’ve been reconciled to God through Jesus’ death: His love for you and I. We may not feel like we are always deserving of such a grand blessing (there are certainly times I do not) BUT He believes I did and you do too.
You and I were once His enemy. He didn’t give us what we deserved. Sometimes undeserved mercy, grace, forgiveness and love can go a long way: especially for some that may lack in such.
The Austin Stone introduced this word during worship and for me, it was incredibly convicting. It has forever sculpted my heart and its capacity to love in far-reaching ways regardless of the character to whom receives it. People deserve the undeserved as we, time and time again, are so gracious to receive. Allow Jesus to be your example in how you “love your neighbor” as he did during persecution; I know of a love no forgiving.
“The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” – psalm (145:9)
Don’t allow yourself to be a sinful cavity that forgets God’s mercy, forgiveness + eternal graciousness. It’s not something to go right over your head. Remember that we are not passing eternal judgement on the people who have wronged us even if it has caused you great pain.
Henceforth, give your worries, grief, and heartache to the greatest healer we’ll ever know; we’ve already been freed. We’ve been freed to live, love and repent of our sins. We’ve been freed to receive the kindness from a God that always sees the better in us. And in return, I hope we be a mankind that mimics His loving nature that knows no bounds. I hope that you find the peace in yourself to rid the judgement of others. I hope you find the internal acceptance it requires to spread a loving energy: and not to simply preach it but to do it.
Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people
And in this I pray, Amen.