Blessing People You'd Rather Shade
“The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together. This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.” (1 John 3:14-17, MSG)
That co-worker. That ministry partner. That friend-of-a-friend.
You already know who I’m talking about, and I didn’t even have to say anything. I’m talking about that person that grinds your gears before they even say a word to you. Let’s be real, fam. It’s impossible to get along with everyone, but sometimes, there are certain people that can get you sideways before anything even happens.
I have more than one person that comes to mind, if we’re being real, and I’m sure if you’re also being honest, you do too. Because we’re human, and although we’ve tasted and seen the love of Christ, it’s a
whole other battle entirely to learn to extend that love to all, regardless of who they are and what they’ve done.
But recently, God has been pointing out the corners of my heart that have grown hard and bitter towards certain characters in my life. And he’s been teaching me a valuable lesson in love.
It all started with a co-worker. A colleague that I felt didn’t pull her weight on our team. Someone that showed me she didn’t like me just as much as I didn’t care for her. I could give a detailed, itemized list of all the reasons she doesn’t deserve my love. But here’s the thing: my love couldn’t do a thing for her anyway. My love is imperfect and conditional. My love is pessimistic and defensive.
That’s when God told me, “Don’t extend your love. Extend mine.”
God’s love is transformative. It takes my dead heart, destined for eternal, sinful death, and makes it new. God’s love affords me everlasting life. And according to today’s key verse, my ability to realize, understand, and extend that love regardless of my personal feelings is the litmus test to see whether or not I am actually beginning to look more like Jesus. If I can’t find it in myself to love someone despite all the reasons I shouldn’t, then I am not actually living what I’m preaching. I’m not living for the glory of God.
If I turn my back on someone or give myself excuse to not prefer them the way Jesus does, then I’m hindering God’s love from being experienced by someone else. I’m putting a stopper on His goodness, His kindness, and His passion from being seen. And that hurts not only the other person, but ultimately, it hurts me. It saddens the Lord. It spits in the face of the promise that Jesus has for me. All things that I don’t want.
So when God pointed out the bitter parts of my heart and started showing me how that bitterness was affecting my ability to experience and extend His love, He challenged me.
He told me to bless her.
In my flesh, I refused. It took me days of wrestling with Jesus, but He was adamant. Every time I let myself get annoyed by every little thing she did, the Holy Spirit whispered, “Bless her.” Every time I wanted to complain to my work friends about how annoying she is, the Holy Spirit said, “Bless her instead.” But what about what she did to me on my birthday? But what about the fact that I have to pick up her slack all the time? But what about-
Every angle I thought to try and get Him to hear me out, the answer was the same: Bless her.
So I gave in. Every time I wanted to return to those bitter places, I begrudgingly said, “Lord, I bless her. Help me show her your love.”
And actually, the more I said it, the more I actually started to mean it. The more I meant it, the more I recognized that our relationship changed. Is she my best friend? No, but we’re able to coexist and work together without any hard feelings. And you know what? That feels a lot better than being at odds.
And that alone makes me want to continue this process with the other people I find myself being hard and bitter towards. Is it any easier every time I realize that there’s a new person I have to struggle to bless? I can’t say it is, because my flesh is having a hard time learning to love even when she’s offended or hurt, but I think it’s more than worth pursuing anyway.
And you know exactly where God wants you to start this morning. Chances are, you’ve had them on your mind from the moment you started reading. And if that’s the case, I encourage you to start asking Jesus to bless them. Ask Him to make you an example of His love. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to take a lot within you to soften your heart enough to genuinely start meaning it, but in the end, it will be worth knowing that you truly understand and exemplify the love Jesus gave to you.
And who knows? Maybe the experience will be contagious enough that you’ll keep blessing people. Even that ex. Even that absent father. Even that friend that left you high and dry. It doesn’t happen overnight, friend, but start smaller. Don’t just claim that God’s love transformed your heart. Don’t stop short of actually being that love. Be encouraged to embrace the heart-change that Jesus’ love promises to do in you. Bless them.
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