(Originally published 8/9/13)
Picture, for a moment, going through life without worrying about anyone, without experiencing any strife with anyone, and without carrying around hurts inflicted upon us by others.
Sound a little to good to be true? Maybe. But if we can only remember how much God loves them and us, then even if they spit in our faces, as we did to Jesus, we will still have love for them that cancels out our own pain. We will be able to see past their actions to the hurting person inside who needs continual love and grace ever bit as much as we do. And God will give that love and grace to us to give to them.
Think for a moment about every person in your life that ‘needs’ to change in some way or other and imagine that they will never change, no matter what you do.
Now choose to love them anyway.
Can you feel that burden being lifted off your shoulders? Feels good, right?
Now, please, don’t misunderstand me; If your loved one is walking in sin, if they are suffering from circumstances and disease, if they are struggling in any way, yes, do what you can to help.
The Bible tells us to hold our brothers and sisters to account and to share the Gospel with non-believers. So whether the person who is sinning knows God or not, we are called to speak life to them and encourage them in the gospel. Contrary to popular belief, we actually aren’t called to judge those outside the church for their sins (1 Cor. 5:12-13), merely to show them that there is a better way through our words, actions, and, most of all, love.
Just as importantly, we are called to pray for others. Whether their troubles concern spiritual issues, physical, mental, emotional, or some combination, we are called to lift them up in prayer. And to continue in that prayer, even after we’ve told them everything God has placed on our hearts to tell them and it doesn’t seem to make a dent. Oftentimes, all that’s left for us to do is pray for them, love on them, and leave the rest up to God.
Trying to do more for them in our own strength, apart from God’s will, is only going to hurt and frustrate us and them.
There are also times when their sins are just cause for us to keep our distance. These times are outlined in the Bible where we are told that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor. 15:33) and it tells us not to associate with professing Christians who are walking in blatant sin (1 Cor. 5:11). This passage even tells us to turn them over to Satan, or in other words, just let them do what they want to do (1 Cor. 5:5). This may sound harsh but it just goes to support my point; we cannot change their hearts. Sometimes we need to step out of their lives and pray for them from a distance, especially if they are causing us physical/psychological harm or drawing us away from the Lord.
Even when we do have to step out of people’s lives, we should never hold grudges against them, despite what they may have done to us and we should continue to love them and lift them up in prayer. That way, when the Lord gets a hold of their heart, we’ll be ready to welcome them back. We will also experience greater freedom and joy by letting go of those past hurts.
After we have learned to trust God with the people in our lives – and this could very well be something we have to re-release to Him on a daily basis – we are free to examine our own hearts and see what God wants us to change in our own lives.