A few nights ago one of my prayers was to ask God to teach me to love people the way He loves people. I have prayed something like this many times before just as a general request but this time I really wanted to feel compassion and charity rather than just knowing I should behave like I feel it. I want to understand and not condemn people. When I find myself being aggravated with someone’s behavior, then I get aggravated with them. I often remind myself that God loves them and so that means so do I but sometimes that doesn’t make me feel better.
As I held Jack on my lap the next morning, having forgotten my drowsy pleas of the night before, I thought of someone who has gone down a rough path and the difficulties that has caused for the people around him. And I wasn’t mad at him. I thought how sad it was because he used to be someone’s precious toddler cuddling on the lap of his adoring mama. And suddenly, as a mama, I can look at a grown man and see how valuable he is no matter what and if a mother loves her child, how much more Jesus loves us. He has called us His children. And as He looks at us, no matter our physical earthly age, I bet He sees a child who is too immature to understand everything yet. But, oh, how He loves us. And if I can remember this way of looking at all my fellow, fallen men, then maybe I can love them better. And though I may know the wrongs a person has done to another, I don’t have to hold that against them in defense (isn’t that what it is? Defensiveness?) because we are all just children and our Father loves each of us.
I heard someone say once that when you introduce your kids, you don’t say “This is Suzie. She’s the one who hits her brother and who ruined our carpet last week.” Right? You don’t hold bad behavior and bad choices against your kids or make their mistakes their identities. And if we are God’s children and he doesn’t make our sin our identity (once we have turned to Him) then we have no right to do that to our brothers and sisters.
After I wrote this to straighten out my thoughts, I logged on to Twitter to ask a question about a Bible-reading plan for the New Year (this one, in case you are curious) and I saw this tweet.
So I got to thinking about how some people are naturally good at compassion and tenderness and how some people are naturally good at understanding the value in identifying sin but sometimes it is cold. And that made me think again about how our strengths are often also our weaknesses. Lately I’ve been thinking about how it is easy for me to be bold, and God made me that way for a reason but sometimes I go rogue and my boldness can hurt others. And I’ve been thinking about my focus for next year. I want to learn to be bold AND gentle. I want to be able to temper truth with love and humility and grace.
Bold is easy for me but oh, to be gentle too.
*Disclaimer: I am never against calling sin “sin.” I think that often we can recognize how much damage sin does to our lives and so we want to warn others. But, examine your motives. God doesn’t need you to get defensive on his behalf. If your motives are loving, it will be easier for your approach to be loving as well.