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Love your enemies

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” – Matthew 5:44 – 46

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In a previous post, I wrote about a difficult situation at work where my manager is unfairly targeting and singling me out. This is arguably the worst treatment that’s ever been inflicted upon me by another human being. Throughout 2016, I’ve been asking myself why this is happening. I do believe that it’s a spiritual test and an opportunity: Can I forgive her? Will I able to love my enemy?

I’ve been a Christian for a long time. But I still struggle with sin and selfishness and constantly ask myself if my faith is truly reflected in my life. It’s well known that God’s greatest command is to love Him. Check – got that! His second greatest command is to love others. Ahem. Yeah, I’m still working on that one.

It’s easy for me to love God. Our Heavenly Father is perfect, after all. Other people? Not so much. Let’s just say that I’m all too aware of the sin and selfishness in people (and I include myself in this category). When someone disappoints me, it’s easy for me to walk away.

But in this case, with my manager, I couldn’t walk away because we work together. We are constantly forced to interact. I asked myself, “What would God want me to do in this situation?” And looking at Matthew 5, the answer I received was that I needed to forgive her and to love my enemy.

But it is so hard.

I’ve spent countless hours agonizing over this situation and analyzing my manager in a vain attempt to understand her. In my head, I wanted to forgive her and be obedient to God. But my heart was resistant; I had been mistreated for too long. My internal dialogue went something like this: “Where is the justice? So, I’m just going to let her get away with it?”

And I’ve spent hours talking to my dad (my earthly father – God bless him for his patience and support!) about it.

Me: I want to forgive her but it’s so hard. Look at Jesus … he’s able to love and forgive his enemies. Why can’t I be like that?
Dad: He’s Jesus. You’re not.

What I’ve concluded is that Jesus is able to see into the inner depths of our hearts and psyches; He knows everything about us and what drives us, including the experiences and pain that are often expressed in the mistreatment of others. Jesus, who knows everything, sees the ugliness and sin in people and He loves us anyway.

I don’t know my manager well enough on a personal level to understand what truly drives her. But I suspect that her unfair treatment of me stems from her character flaws and racial prejudice. Yes, Satan is working, big time. What allows me to hold my head up high is that I’m absolutely positive that I’ve done nothing to warrant the current situation.

I’ve listened to numerous sermons on the topic of forgiveness. On repeat. What I’ve learned is this: Forgiveness is for me. It’s not for the other person. A grudge is like a toxin that’s poisoning me. By forgiving, I’m releasing that poison.

I think I’m finally at a place where I’m ready to forgive. It’s a new year. I’m ready for a fresh start.

Me: I want to love my enemy, so it’s so hard!
Him: Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

A perfect design

And God said, “Let there by light,” and there was light – Genesis 1:3

earth-from-spaceIt’s amazing how certain scripture passages I’ve heard my entire life can take on new meaning. I suppose that’s why people read the Bible over and over again; they constantly find new depths and implications – that’s how rich this book is.

What struck me reading the beginning of Genesis yesterday was God’s intricately structured design in creating the world. Everything is perfectly balanced and all elements have their counterparts: light and darkness, water separated from dry land, the sky and the earth, the sun and the moon and stars, birds that fly in the air and fish that swim in the sea.

It’s beautifully designed. Symmetrical and self-sustaining. He commanded that the land produce vegetation with seed bearing plants and the trees to produce fruit with seeds. He commanded the creatures inhabiting the earth to be fruitful and multiply in number. It’s a complete system. A well-oiled machine. Functional as it is beautiful. Steve Jobs, who is renown as an innovative inventor who appreciates beautiful design, has absolutely nothing on God.

God was the first true artist. The first true innovator and creatorGenesis 1:31 – God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.

I suppose that’s why we are intrinsically drawn to beauty. That’s why I love living in southern California – there are ample beaches, mountains and hiking trails. Here, I’m able to experience nature – God’s creation – in a way I wasn’t able to while living in New York City.

Have you ever been lost in a deep forest surrounded by nothing but trees and the sound of wind and birds? Or seen a vivid sunset that’s so stunningly vivid that your heart literally aches at its beauty? Spent hours gazing in wonder at the nighttime sky and pondered the vastness of the universe? It’s moments such as these that I become aware of God the Artist. The Creator. Witnessing such beauty evokes a sense of  deep longing, reverence and worship.

This world – this creation and and everything in it – is a perfectly designed miracle. And it’s “very good,” as God proclaimed. And I’m reminded that our Heavenly Father has entrusted us to take care of this beautiful world He created.

Me: Father, thank you for the beauty of this world You created. What is our responsibility as stewards of the earth?
Him: Genesis 1:26 – Let us make mankind in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.

In the beginning …

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth – Genesis 1.1 

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Today is January 1, 2017. It’s a brand new year and kicking it off with Genesis just feels right. Timely and appropriate. So today I flipped open The One Year Bible – a Bible that has 365 daily readings for each day of the year – and started at the very beginning.

Becoming an avid Bible reader is of the things I aspire to be. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is an “ongoing” resolution I make every year. I would love to be one of those people who can rattle off memorized scripture and weave them into daily conversations. (I am so impressed by people who can do that!) God’s Word has power, after all. I truly believe that. Look at Jesus Christ … He was constantly quoting scripture. And we know that if Jesus found scripture important, then it is – I mean, He is Jesus, after all. So I’d like  to reach that point where the Bible “becomes alive” to me. I want to soak up the power of God’s Word into my bones, let them marinate within me – and by the power of the Holy Spirit – sit back and watch the transformation in my life unfold.

Ahem. I admit that despite my lofty – yet sincere – aspirations, I struggle with procrastination and laziness at times. The structured readings of The One Year Bible are helpful, but I confess that I need to become more consistent in my study of God’s Word. I’d like to reach a point where I crave it – and scripture becomes as natural as breathing and my Bible feels like an extension of myself. Am I there yet? Um no. Not even close. Please pray for me. I started this brand new blog today to help keep myself accountable – and also encourage anyone else who comes across it.

Me: I confess that I’m a flawed sinner. I want to be better, but I need your supernatural intervention to make this happen.
Him: Philippians 4:13 – I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.