Who drives you crazy?
A couple of summers ago I was working at Grace Adventures, a ministry in silver Lake Michigan that runs summer camps. I was a counselor at the ranch part of the camp. Every week I would have a new crew of boys in my cabin and a class of campers I would be teaching horsemanship skills. It was a pretty great job and I have a lot of fond memories of my time spent there. As you can probably guess, you aren’t about to hear one of the many stories of a good time there.
One week that I remember particularly well I had a very interesting dynamic in my cabin. There was one boy who was very mean to another boy in the cabin. This boy that was being harassed had some mental disabilities and was having a hard time dealing with the attitude of his cabin mate. The boy that was being mean clearly wasn’t “developed” enough to understand that his victim had mental disabilities. So I was stuck in a very difficult position for an 18 year old. All I wanted was for these two guys to get along. I tried everything I knew to encourage them to become friends and to stop the constant bickering. By the end of the week I was ready to explode. I was so angry at the boy that wouldn’t leave his cabin mate alone. I was not a fan of this camper. All week long I did the opposite of what I wanted to do, I loved the frustrating camper.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
I’ll ask again
Who drives you crazy?
That one lady at work who always has to make a comment about what you’re wearing. It sounds like a compliment but it always has that backhanded edge to it. Just the sound of her name gets you stirred up.
That kid in your school that you know is telling everyone else all kinds of terrible lies about you behind your back. You don’t understand why, what did you ever do to him? The sight of him makes your heart pump a little faster.
Loud music is blaring again, people are all over the yard. You’re trying to sleep, unlike the college kid next door because you have to go to work in the morning. Every day you get home from work he’s out in the yard getting ready for the party to start all over. When that music starts your teeth set on edge.
Now I shared a story of a time I did love someone I really didn’t want to love. I have failed at doing so many times however. So I don’t consider myself an expert at loving my enemies, but I do believe God calls us to love our enemies.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28
This is not an easy request. I don’t think I’m alone in struggling with this commandment. Essentially what Jesus is saying is “come up with new and creative ways to love people that drive you crazy.”
This is a battle worth fighting. There are two ideas of what may happen when we fight this battle.
Firstly, we begin to reach the lost.
Mark (name is changed), was a friend of mine that wasn’t a follower of Christ. He wasn’t interested in the life that Jesus had to offer him. He was a pretty good guy, he didn’t take advantage of people and was always kind to his friends. Mark had some substance abuse problems though, he would drink way too much. This drinking would lead to poor life decisions. Mark was just coasting through life, at his current pace he was headed nowhere fast. A couple of friends and I stuck by his side though. We didn’t do anything drastic, but just stayed in his life showing the love of God. Eventually Mark came around, now Mark is doing really well in a church and is helping in the youth group. Mark wasn’t my enemy, but the constant contact of our love brought him into a relationship with Jesus.
When we show love to the people who don’t show love to us, when we show them that there is something different about us. This is the first step to being able to witness the gospel to those we don’t love.
Now, hit pause. For those of us that have heard “church talk” for any amount of time, everything I have written so far is pretty standard.
The second idea is a game changer.
What if we don’t love people for their sake, but we love people for ours?
What if we love people, not to change their lives? But to change our own?
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:32-36
What if our goal in loving people isn’t to change them, but to change ourselves?
There is a perfect example of why we should approach loving our enemies from this perspective happening right now.
Why love the people in ISIS?
My love for a bunch of Jihadists who I’m probably never going to see in person seems pretty irrelevant. Why would God care if I love the people in ISIS? I want to suggest that God doesn’t ask me to love the ISIS terrorists so I can change them, but so that God can change me.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
This is Jesus’s goal for us once we become saved. For us to have a “good work completed in us”.
That good work, is the love of Jesus flowing out of us. We shouldn’t strive to love ISIS so that we can change the hearts of terrorists, we should strive to love ISIS so that God may change our hearts, so that He may complete a good work in us.
I believe that if we love people that we don’t want to love, with the intention of changing ourselves, we will be much more likely to impact the ones we don’t love with Jesus.
This perspective will not only cause us to grow closer in our relationship with God, by allowing Jesus to complete His good work in us. It will also grow our relationship with Jesus by building a healthier foundation of trust. There’s no guarantee that loving someone will change them, but I believe that it will change you. When we love someone hoping to change them, and they don’t change, we are defeated, downcast and trodden upon. Our expectation was wrong. Change your expectation.
Love so that you may be changed, this will not disappoint.
Jesus asked us to love people, not to change them.
It’s our job to love people.
It’s Jesus’s job to change people.
If we love people, Jesus can complete a good work in us.
Let Jesus handle the change.