I’m not going to fake it

“Principles are what people have instead of God.
To be a Christian means among other things to be willing if necessary to sacrifice even your highest principles for God’s or your neighbor’s sake the way a Christian pacifist must be willing to pick up a baseball bat if there’s no other way to stop a man from savagely beating a child.
Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them.
‘Principle’ is an even duller word than ‘Religion’.”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

This quote came across my Facebook news feed this week and I had to re read it a few times as the message sank deeper into my heart. At first pass I thought…What?! Aren’t principles good? Shouldn’t we stand for right and wrong? Shouldn’t we have those lines that we wont cross?

The second read I thought well, I guess principles are our own construction of right and wrong. They can become rigid. A list of shoulds and should nots to adhere to. Fundamental behavior rules that we accept as true as we construct our own moral framework. We replace God with our own ideas of how to act. And when something falls outside that framework we judge it and cast it off without looking deeper into the heart.

The third time through I stopped at “Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them”. He didn’t forgive these people who had beaten, humiliated, and executed him because he SHOULD. Because a moral code told him to. He forgives them because he honestly LOVES them. He can see in their hearts. He can see beyond the behavior to the pain and the wounds. He can see their need for a savior. And even though they are taking his life he responds with compassion and forgiveness.

WOW…that is some kind of love and it’s there for all of us.

This is the point where I’m like Yea! Thank you for loving me that much! Thank you for your grace and compassion and forgiveness!!

And then there is a voice inside me that goes “Because I love you…go love others with the same sacrificial love”

Eeeerrrkkk (squealing brakes 🙂 ) It’s one thing for me to receive that love but to offer it to hardest to loveothers? That costs something. That costs A LOT. That costs EVERYTHING. However, if it’s been freely given to me…shouldn’t I freely give it? Yes. But let’s not pretend it’s easy. I have been in a very difficult healing and forgiveness process and I will admit to days where closing my heart and giving in to anger/bitterness seemed like the easiest way forward. My heart was hard. My pride was hurt. My sense of justice was screaming. My principles shattered. I knew deep in my soul that love and forgiveness were the only way to bring freedom into my life but I didn’t see how it was humanly possible. And honestly it wasn’t humanly possible but I had hope it was divinely possible.

So, this was my prayer “God, I’m hurt and angry. I confess to an extremely hard heart and not much hope for true forgiveness. I know you ask me to love this world like you do. To offer compassion and forgiveness to hurting people. There is nothing in me that wants to…BUT there is a small crack in my heart for you to work. I need you to honestly do this because I can’t and I’m not going to fake it.”

Deep in my soul I felt something like this “Thank you for keeping a crack open…I’m not asking you to fake it…I can and will do this. Trust me.”

It doesn’t happen immediately. In fact it is a slow, agonizing process but that crack is widening. Much like a rose going from a tight closed bud to a flower in full bloom. Every day brings almost undetectable changes but add them up and transformation is more obvious. The hardness is softening. The ice is melting. A miracle is happening. Authentic love and forgiveness are replacing anger and self righteousness. The impossible now feels more possible. And all I can say is Praise the Lord…I’m not faking it!!

Happy Monday,

Lynnea

Free to love

I don’t often listen to “Christian” music…most of the time it comes across as a bit sappy and lacking any emotional reality. But I have a Spotify list that I turn on every once in a while and a song We are Free by Aaron Shust caught my attention (not necessarily in a good way – sorry Aaron):

The chorus is what stands out to me:

We are free to love like our god has loved we are free to give like he gave
We are free from sin we are free to begin to forgive as he forgave.
–> With blue skies and sunshine and soaring chords

I absolutely believe these words are true but, as Christians, are we ready to accept the reality of them? When I hear a song like this it is easy to get swept up in the melody and passively sing along with the lyrics…content to let the words wash over me without taking a moment to step back and evaluate what “loving like he loved”, “giving like he gave” and “forgiving like he forgave” look like in my life.

Today is the beginning of Passover (a Jewish holiday remembering the Hebrew people being freed from slavery and Israel being established as a new nation) and is celebrated with food, family and friends. The (arguably) most famous account of a Passover dinner is “The Last Supper”…the last meal Jesus shared with his intimate friends before he was arrested, humiliated, beaten and crucified…to be resurrected on Easter Sunday. This dinner has been the inspiration for countless works of art and I have found myself reflecting on its significance this year.

OK…here’s a really basic synopsis and paraphrase: There is Jesus, who knows he is about to be cruelly executed and suffer TREMENDOUSLY (physically and emotionally). He sits down to dinner with his closest friends. Friends who have been with him night and day…listened to him…laughed with him…prayed with him…shared life with him…but still Jesus on the crosscan’t really see him for who he is. Judas is at the table and has already made the decision to betray him by turning him over to the authorities and ultimately to his death. He looks at the rest of the disciples and knows that they are also weak and will deny him at this most desperate time. They are arguing about who will be the greatest and Jesus knows that once he is dead they will be terrified and run away to hide. He knows that he will be abandoned and that they will break his heart but he STILL LOVES them. He washes their feet and gives them one last urgent sermon…tells them to love each other as He loved them…to lay their lives down for each other…He is about to leave them but they wont be alone…he is telling them but they can’t hear it…he knows they are blind and can’t fully understand what he is saying but over and over he is talks about how much he loves them…how much God the father loves them and wants them to know Him…to follow the way he lived his life. Jesus looks at them and says “I love you. I want the best for you. I want freedom for you. I want REAL life and joy for you. I want you to know me. I want you to love this world like I love it.”

He knows these are still the same men who will turn their backs on him in a few hours. Betraying him. Abandoning him. Allowing fear and self preservation to consume them. Jesus knew they couldn’t understand what he was saying but he told them anyway because someday they would. He urgently wants them to know how much he absolutely loves them and is proving it by dying in their place.

OK…wow. Loving like Jesus loved is not necessarily a cheerful upbeat song. It is personal and requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice and humility. Loving someone means truly wanting the best for them. And it’s not just loving the people that are easy to love…it means loving the bad people too…the people who have hurt you. People who have wounded you with hard hearts and selfish choices.

  • It can be an injustice in your past
  • Maybe someone used you in a relationship
  • If there is a person whose mere name makes your blood boil
  • Someone at work stabbed you in the back
  • ….the list goes on

God loves them too!! You see the world differently when viewed through the lens of how much you are loved and forgiven. Do you look at this world with compassion and see blind, wounded people just trying to live life and find love and affirmation (probably in the wrong places)? Or do you see their behavior and put them in a box with judgement? Can you see through their choices and have mercy on the hurting heart that made them? Or do you want to stand on righteousness? Please keep in mind I am writing this as much to myself as anyone. And I don’t mean we need to live life without boundaries. Jesus took time to care for himself. Loving someone does not protect them from consequences but allows the truth to be revealed.

But on the cross…as Jesus was dying he said…Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Basically – They are blind.

So yes, we are free to love like he loved, give like he gave, forgive like he forgave…and actually living life that way is the only TRUE freedom…but let’s not pretend it is as easy or happy as our songs may make it seem. Maybe if more Christians truly lived life this way it would be easier to convince people that it is actually “Good News” rather than a list of rules.

Looking forward to Easter,

Lynnea

Why Forgive?

We are designed to love and be in relationship. I find the human heart and emotions to be one of the most amazing miracles in God’s creation. But like I wrote on Tuesday we are imperfect and we wound each other…and by choosing to love you are always risking the possibility of being hurt.

“Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give your heart to no one. It will not be broken, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love, is hell.” C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)

When our hearts get hurt we then have choices about how to deal with it. We can choose to forgive or hold on to our righteousness and focus on all the ways we have been wronged. It can feel good for a moment to think about revenge or justice…it can even be comforting to hold on to anger and bitterness. Here are a few of my thoughts on why forgiveness is essential for freedom.

  • Choosing forgiveness means you are no longer controlled by the emotions of a situation. You are not captive to anger and bitterness but let it go and open your heart to life and love. This takes a tremendous amount of humility and courage.
  • You can’t receive forgiveness without being able to give it…one of the great spiritual paradoxes. If we REALLY accept our identity as ABSOLUTELY forgiven by God…forgiveness should flow from us.
  • Choosing to forgive means you let go of being a “victim”
  • Choosing to forgive is a gift you can give yourself
  • Choosing to forgive DOES NOT mean we continue to subject our self to unhealthy behavior but recognize that we can’t change the past and don’t want to be controlled by it.
  • Forgiveness should never be forced but if your heart is honestly open to it have faith that you will find it

You can live a small life focused on how others are mistreating you or you can actually become a proactive person full of life and love. There is so much hope and beauty in forgiveness.Blessings,

Lynnea