I have been thinking a lot lately about the concept of "loving the unlovely." The people that would come to mind when I first thought of that phrase would always be the dirty, the poor, the ragged...but not anymore. I feel like God is taking me to a new level with this.
I am realizing that "loving the unlovely" is to also include the cruel, the unjust, even the ones who talk bad about others behind their back. The ones who bring hurt and pain. These are also loved by God...their actions most certainly aren't...but they themselves are. The same Christ who died to set me free also paid their bond of release with His blood.
How do I love them? This is still a mystery to me because it so totally goes against what the world teaches us. If I am to continue following Christ...I know I will be molded into His likeness with every step. This will mean that I will be called to love those who hurt me...even the most grievous wounds I will be called on to forgive. Even as Christ was dying on the cross He prayed for those who were physically wounding Him...who were killing Him...who were mocking Him & gambling for His clothes!
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
This is the kind of love that is often beyond our human comprehension. We struggle with just forgiving those who have maligned our names...not taken our lives. Then I thought of all those wrongly imprisoned in other countries where it is illegal to call on the name of Jesus. How do those persecuted minister to their captors--their tormentors? And yet, the stories abound of those who have even died and years later the seed they planted with their witness of the Lord's love had grown in the hearts of the men responsible for their death. Those who had once embraced evil came to believe in Christ and experience His perfect love. The movie "The End of the Spear" tells the story of missionaries who yearned to reach a tribe of people so brutal they killed all foreigners who came into their territory as well as their rival tribes and even, at times, each other. Murder was their life. And yet...even there God can work wonders...I will not tell the rest of this story because you really must see it for yourself. It's an amazing and inspiring story of hope and forgiveness and love. I read about Corrie Ten Boom whose family perished in the Nazi concentration camp where she suffered as well. I read her own words of years later meeting one of the men responsible for that horrible time in her life journey. That, too, is an amazing tale of forgiveness and the powerful effect it can have when it's allowed to work in our hearts and lives.
I think to myself, "How can such a love exist?!" I never understood it. I still don't fully comprehend it...it simply makes no sense in our worldly minds. And yet...my heart yearns for such a love. I want to be able to "love the unlovely" as much as I can love those who are kind to me. I know I cannot do this on my own. That kind of love is not in me.
I know that as I continue to yield and allow Christ to shine through me--I will be loved--and I will be hated. People were drawn to Him throughout His time on earth. Those who needed His kind of love loved Him deeply. There were also people who despised Him. Hated Him enough to want Him dead. I may never have people who hate me that much...but there will be those I will make uncomfortable just because of who I am and Whose I am. They will say bad things about me. They will hate me and it will hurt. But if I am to continue on this journey I am on...it cannot be avoided. Why do we forget the warning He gave us?* Why are we surprised when we are not accepted by the world?
I will not turn from the One who has loved me so much and rescued me from so many perilous moments in my life. I cannot stop following Him. Step by step I will go with Him and I pray I do not stumble in this walk. Even as that is my prayer and my heart's desire, I know there will be times when I will stumble and fall. Yet, my heart does not fear because as I get to know this great love so well...I know He will pick me up and set me back on the right path. And that knowledge is both humbling and comforting to me.
If we want to follow Christ...we must follow the path He has laid before us. We must keep walking the walk with Him. We are needed. People are lost and hurting and in need of this Great Love God has for them. We are His hands. We are His feet. We must keep going no matter the opposition. His call is greater than any of the world's many seductive voices. We are NEEDED.
Oh Father, please be with me as I walk this road. I hear you saying to me, "Brace for the storm." I know things will get difficult for me. I don't know when. I don't know from which direction the arrows will fly. Hold me tight, hold me steady, keep my feet on the path You have placed me on and want me to travel. I know there is no safer place for me than in Your loving arms. Help me focus on Your loving face when the storm rages all around and threatens to suck me under the great waves.
*"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also."