As I began to reflect on this question for myself, I was rereading the article from last week about the wilderness journey. I had inserted a link to a YouTube video that I edited and loaded to my own YouTube channel, so I thought I would quickly take a look to see how many people had watched it. Maybe I was making a similar unhelpful decision to King David's decision to count his fighting men (see 2 Samuel 24:10). Anyway it was too late, I'd already looked and the number was 4 ... of the 184 recipients. I had a little chuckle to myself, was I offended??
Well not really but the opportunity to go down that road for much more serious offenses is presented to us pretty much every day. I have been pondering over the last several days, this question of how do we learn to love such that we never take offense, never keep a record of wrongs, or as the New Life Version of 1 Cor 13:5 says, 'not remember the suffering that comes from being hurt by someone'.
Some of you will have heard me preach at Arrowsmith Baptist Church last Sunday evening, thank you so much for those who came in support as well as to worship with other saints in the valley. I was reflecting on the love that empowered Jesus to show such care for his mother, in fact to everyone, when suffering in such an unimaginable and unjust way. In such physical, emotional and spiritual pain he takes no thought of how he was being treated, but rather takes thought of Mary, of John, of you and I!
It is all too easy, especially when we are being treated unjustly or unlovingly, for us to allow our situation to define us. But the moment we do that, we run the serious risk of operating outside of love. We move away from faith and abiding in the One who is love and our focus returns to ourselves. Faith invites us to stay defined not by what others do to us, but to see what Jesus looks like in our situation. When we go through some kind of "cross-like" treatment, how might we allow Jesus to live through us just like he lived through his own sufferings.
When rather, we take offense at what has been done to us, we tend to see ourselves apart from Jesus, in other words we dig up the old man that is meant to be dead and buried, and start to give him energy again, thinking this is the way. Unfortunately it is also deception, the way of the flesh, the way of the crucified flesh that tends to reject God's way and simply fight for itself. That is a fight we will never win, but we don't need to!
This journey, this practice of abiding in the love of Christ so graciously given, is what brings true healing, redemption and transformation to ourselves, our families, our community and our world. This is what Jesus died to make possible ... our knowing the Father and our becoming like Him through the indwelling Spirit. When we yield to this by faith, there is a flow of life, trinitarian life straight from heaven, that the world so desperately needs.
We are not to be defined by other people's treatment of us, even those closest to us, but we are defined by Christ's life and love for all. Of that love there is an unending supply within us, put there by Christ because it is quite literally Christ himself and in Him we are new creation. Thanks be to God!
With much love,