This last year has had many unique pressures; social, political, economic, and physical. We have all have been impacted in one way or another. How is your heart in the midst of all you have been through? Are you still growing in love?
The two greatest commandments are for us to love God and others. The second, “loving others as ourselves,” is a call to treat others in the highest regard, giving preference and making them first. This can only be done out of the overflow of our union with Him. God measures our love for Him based on how we love others and obey. Love is not optional and, in it’s highest form, unconditional.
It’s easy to show love to those in the midst of a crisis; we desire the same compassion. What about people who think and act differently or even mistreat us? How will we carry our hearts when things intensify severely? How will we endure it? Will we still love?
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:9-14 ESV
“Endurance” is so much more than gritting your teeth and biting your tongue. This will only get you so far. We need the nature of Jesus to grow in us in such a way that we are abounding in love. Overflowing with goodness and permeating all we do. In the days ahead, as Jesus followers and CRI Responders, we need a deep burning love for Jesus AND others in the framework of the Great Commission.
The apostle under house-arrest in Rome saw his mistreatment as a missional opportunity to advance the Kingdom (“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Php 1:12).
Paul saw persecution as an opportunity for the gospel, and a means for the gospel to go forth. Notice his preceding words to the church in Phillipi. He encourages them to steward their hearts in the same way that they, too, would bear the nature of the resurrected Christ in all circumstances.
“I continue to pray for your love to grow and increase beyond measure, bringing you into the rich revelation of spiritual insight in all things. This will enable you to choose the most excellent way of all—becoming pure and without offense until the unveiling of Christ. And you will be filled completely with the fruits of righteousness that are found in Jesus, the Anointed One—bringing great praise and glory to God!” Php 1:9-11 TPT
When we put our hardships and mistreatment into a missional context, for those abounding in love, we will see an opportunity for the Kingdom of God to expand and the nature of Christ to shine.
We have all been through a lot, and beloved, even greater challenges are on their way. Paul indicates we can remain without offense and retain purity of heart until the return of the Lord. It’s not so much how we “get around the challenges” but endure them with our hearts ever-expanding in love.
2021 will bring even greater and more unique challenges. Whatever comes next, especially when we are mistreated and things do not go our way, let us view every situation as an opportunity to respond with Christ’s love and advance His Kingdom. Let’s choose a more excellent way.
Holy Spirit, I ask you right now to help me refocus. Please take my numbness, my outrage, and every lie that is contending for my attention and turn it into burning hot love for Jesus and others once again. I choose a “more excellent way” today instead of the narrative my enemy would like to enforce upon me. Help me to grow in love for God and practical love for those around me. Help me hold my tongue where I need to but also speak the truth in love. Help me to be more like Jesus. Amen