For the Christian nothing has the power to pump life into the hurting heart more than the blood of our Savior who has secured it— a merciful Savior whose unfailing love beats for us with rhythms of exultation that defy all rhymes of reason considering the state of our knotted and gnarled selves. It's a blood-wrought salvation that shines its brightest beauty when this receiving of healing within us is met with too much gratitude to fixate on the inevitable delivering of hurt from without us.
The Church is the recipient of such powerful healing that Jesus, with perfect law and judgment, commands us to love even our enemies. Not only that, he tells us to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who mistreat us. (Luke 6:27)
Christ lived out the truth on this earth that, in Him, comes a healing of such supernatural power that we could be justly called to a righteousness that has us doing the very thing that goes against what is natural. A miraculous healing of the heart that has Believers called to a love which we could never find within ourselves— a supernatural love drawn from our Savior's pure and perfect divine heart, not a natural love drawn from our own impure & imperfect human one.
Is it any wonder that the Enemy thrives on denying the display of this supernatural love to a world who needs Jesus? Should we be surprised that the Father of Lies so actively deceives us into believing that the prideful protections and promotions of our fragile egos are merely the justifiable actions of the strong? Should we think it strange that the Prince of Darkness blinds us to the sinful passions that lie within enough for us to wander into tunnels of pride that leave us fainting under the heat of honest critique, folding under the heavy work of real relationship, and fighting against every threat to our power and control?
What incredible harmony exists within the Church when the inevitable pain of this life finds us embracing the healing that is ours in Christ; and what an incredible melody sounds from its walls when the glorious song of our salvation drowns out the darker notes of sin's wounding. Dark notes that echo from the chambers of every human heart, heralding its sad song throughout the entire world— notes intended to open our ear to the sound of the suffering of a Savior, luring us to the Cross where we are granted the priceless gift of Himself.
Life comes with much sorrowing, and it's not just from the fallout of sin that wages war within our own heart. It also comes from the sin that wages war within the heart of others; and why for many of us, the following bad news is most likely old news:
1) We can't win or keep the kind affection of everybody, no matter how much we may wish otherwise.
2) We will be misunderstood, misrepresented, misjudged, misaligned & mistreated.
3) People will disappoint us, deceive us, and dismiss us; marginalize us, jeopardize us, and demoralize us; use us, misuse us, and abuse us; shut us up, shut us down, and shut us out.
4) Relationships will be injured by the indifferent, pained by the protected, and poisoned by the prideful.
5) Friendships won't all stand the test of time. Some will be confusingly silenced, some coldly severed.
6) Entering the fray to minister healing to the hurting will come with the cost of personal wounding.
But while the sobering storyline of this news broadcast is about what’s done OUTSIDE of us, it doesn't spotlight the love of our Savior that's at work INSIDE of us. Yes, there's bad news about the hurting of our heart in this fallen world; but there’s far better news about the healing of our heart. And when we tune our ear to the right news channel, the truth will prove powerful enough to set us solidly on a grace-paved road that leads to supernatural love. The kind of love that flows freely enough to reach even the deepest wounds inflicted by our worst enemies.
No longer slaves to sin, the unshackled Church has been redeemed to walk a road that is straight enough for us to keep our eyes fixed solidly on our eternal prize of glory. An eternal fixation that frees the faltering ego from boosting itself with attention, affirmation and admiration; that safeguards the fragile ego from hiding itself with selfish indifference, silent distancing, and shameful shunning; and that stills the fearful ego from securing itself with strong defense, striking accusation, and strident rebuttal.
The Church hasn't been set free to follow meandering paths wherever our untrustworthy hearts lead us, rather we've been set free to run a redemptive road that has been straightened by the trustworthy heart of our King. A road of humility flowing with Christ's precious blood richly and lavishly enough to cover every footprint of ego pumping, preserving & promoting pride.
We can talk all day about being a Church that loves the gospel of grace. But the reality is that our struggle with sinful pride doesn’t just leave us reacting coldly to real insult and injury, it leaves us reacting coldly to imagined insult and injury. It leads us to distance ourselves from the one we assume has discredited us; and to show disinterest to the one we assume has dismissed us; and to react with defense to the one we assume has devalued us. And even when our assumptions are proven realities, how are we differentiating ourselves by our love when our relationships within the Church are as faltering and fragile as our egos?
The wonder of amazing grace is that the love of God is not about any merit of those receiving love, but about the merit of the Sovereign One giving love. Our song of salvation is the expression of a perfect King of Kings who, in spite of our rebellion, loved us enough to bear the weight of our sin at the Cross. Our anthem of redemption is the expression of a Sovereign God who, in spite of our betrayal, sent his only beloved son to die for us so that we might live.
The Church is the recipient of a love that's loftier than our wildest imagination could ever soar, and we make a mockery of its power when we limit its expression to only include those we see as good and kind. We sing of a love that is stunningly glorious, but we make a mockery of its beauty when we limit its expression to only include those we deem to be lovely.
Unfortunately love has been so poorly defined by feelings and impoverishly confined by emotion, we can easily hear this message of love and nervously wring our hands in concern or angrily shake our heads in frustration that it's a call to tolerate abusive behavior. But genuine love doesn't turn a blind eye to wrongdoing, and neither does is support or sustain sinful behavior. Yes, it's a proactive love that leans warmly into the grace of reconciliation through repentance; and no, it's not a reactive love that coldly withholds itself because of behavior unworthy of its offering. But while it's warmly proactive, it's a love of powerful wisdom and understanding. Love that comes with a physical lean into spiritual possibility, even when spiritual health calls for a physical lean away from a person.
When we make the expression of love about the Giver and not the receiver, our frail human love surrenders to the divine love of a Savior whose supply is deep enough to give even when there is no return. It's why it's a supernatural love— a love that is mercifully ours in spite of our daily failings as we're drawn to repentance by the reconciling warmth of God's kindness.
Kierkegaard is right: Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one loved.
I praise God for so patiently teaching me that my own expression of love is what is centrally important, not the expression of love I receive. I have experienced the inevitable sorrow and guilt of drawing upon natural love from my own prideful heart— selfish love that is coldly reactive; and I have experienced the joy and forgiveness of drawing upon supernatural love from God's heart— sacrificial love that is warmly proactive. I can testify with conviction that relating to others supernaturally comes with a peace too unspeakably sweet for me not to plead for grace to proactively lean into every relationship with the warmth of my Redeemer's reconciling love. And, when my fierce and feisty self fails miserably in friendship, grace to lean even harder into repentance.
How about you? What’s your response to relational injury that is an inevitable part of life in this fallen world? Is your expression of love warmly proactive, or is it coldly reactive? Though spiritual health may preclude a physical lean into a person, is there a physical lean into spiritual possibility? Is your expression of love marked by a prideful posture of protection with arms crossed to close off your heart, or is it marked by a humble posture of prayer with arms lifted to open your heart?
Lord, because you first loved us. . . please teach us to love. Humble our hearts. Teach us the way of the Cross.