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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Act As If

What do you do if you don't "feel like" loving or forgiving someone?  What if every fiber of your natural human feeling tells you to do different?  What if your natural inclination for self-preservation would lead you to do the opposite?  What do you do?

You "act as if." Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV) says "'Teacher which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'  Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  This is a commandment.  It is not based on feeling--it is a command to an action.  We are to love God and love others whether we feel like it or not.

What exactly is love?  It is not a feeling.  I Corinthians 13:4-8  (NIV) says, "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails."  So, if we don't feel like loving does that mean we don't have to be kind?  I hope no one out there would say that gives us permission to be unkind to others.  Love, as we are commanded to love, is not a feeling.  It is a command and the Bible gives us specific actions to show our love.  The Message says it this way; "Love never gives up.  Love cares more for others than for self.  Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.  Love doesn't strut.  Doesn't have a swelled head.  Doesn't force itself on others.  Isn't always 'me first.'  Doesn't fly off the handle.  Doesn't keep score of the sins of others.  Doesn't revel when others grovel.  Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.  Puts up with anything.  Trusts God always.  Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end."  The Bible commands us to love and gives us specific actions about how to do just that.  If we choose not to because we don't feel like it, we are sinning.

You'll often find that if you are obedient to God and obey His commands, He will change your heart.  Soon you will find yourself feeling the feelings.  Often obedience and action must come first, but eventually feelings will follow.

We are still called to forgive, whether we feel like it or not.  Forgiving doesn't mean the automatic restoration of relationship or automatically trusting again.  What is does mean is giving up a grudge and allowing God to be the Judge.  For more on my thoughts on forgiveness, check out my previous post.

"You're familiar with the old written law: 'Love your friend,' and it's unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.'  I'm challenging that.  I'm telling you to love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.  When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for then you are working out of your true selves--your God-given selves.  This is what God does.  He gives His best--the sun to warmth and the rain to nourish--to everyone regardless:  the good and bad, the nice and nasty.  If all you do is love the loveable, do you expect a bonus?  Anybody can do that.  If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?  Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.  In a word, what I'm saying is Grow up.  You're kingdom subjects.  Now act like it.  Live out your God-created identity.  Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."  Matthew 5:43-48 (Message)

I want to hear your thoughts about this.  Let's get a conversation going.  What happens if you don't "feel like" loving or forgiving?

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