Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you have a great day filled with opportunities to face your enemies, to share the company of those who annoy you, and to interact with the unlovely!
What??? Not what you expected? Not what you wanted to hear? Oh well! I can't ignore the message I see throughout the Bible. Stay with me for a minute and you will see where I am going with this. Throughout the Bible God chooses the unlovely and weak to show His love and strength. Over and over, this is the case. We are told to be like God, to love like He loves. He says to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us and if someone demands a little from us to generously give them more than they demanded!
This has been on my mind for a couple weeks since I heard a man named Samer Mohammed speak at my church. He was raised by a Muslim terrorist and had become a religious leader in the Muslim community. He shared with such passion about how he finally read the Bible in secret and saw that Jesus was love and that he was telling his followers to do the exact opposite of other religions. He said his Koran told him to kill Christians and Jews but Jesus said to love your enemies! What a contrast! This love is what drew him in to the Father. He shared an amazing testimony of how he has been shunned by his family for the last 10 years and has been jailed 3 times for just being a Christian. He has no fear. When asked if he was afraid he'd be killed for his faith he replied with tears, "Look what Jesus did for me, how I can be shy for him?" (You can watch him share at our church here.) One of the life-changing passages from the Bible for Samer was in Matthew chapter 5:
You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best-the sun to warm and the rain to nourish-to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. (Matthew 5:43-48 MSG)
So I ask, who are you going to love today? Only the nice? What about the nasty? Christ died for us while we were still filthy in our sin; pitiful, weak, and unlovely. The challenge is to welcome the opportunities before us to demonstrate TRUE love to those around us each day!
Let me reiterate Matthew 5:48 as I go,
"Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."
Blessed beyond my wildest dreams,