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A Gardener of Love

She turned to drugs and alcohol to dull her childhood pain.  The pain inflicted by an abusive, angry father.  Her body was being ravaged by anger, hatred and shame.  The feelings of worthlessness.  And Jesus met her one night in an incredible vision.  Upon waking she instantly accepted Him as her new, eternal, loving Father and set aside drugs and alcohol.  It was her offering, her gift back to the Lord, however, that most likely had Him dancing in heaven.  It wasn’t a payment because the Lord saves us without cost from us, without our need to do anything but say, “yes.”  No, it was the only thing she really had to offer – love.  Not just for the Lord but for her earthly father.

I met Julie* in a home Bible study.  During the next few years, I watched as this daughter of God set aside her anger and any need for retribution while she travelled out of state to help care for her ailing father.  Not once did I hear her speak ill of him again.  She didn’t seek platitudes for her service to this man who had emotionally and physically abused her.  She didn’t see it as an annoyance.  No, she tended to her father as Jesus’ bond-servant.  Sent in His name.  

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Galatians 5:13-15

And what are the desires of the flesh? “Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Gal 5:19-21).  Placed right there in the middle could probably be seen as the root of the rest of those desires – selfishness.  Our need to receive retribution from those who have hurt us.  We want so much to cry out, “but, but, but!” and list our excuses as to why we can’t show someone love.

Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.  

C.S. Lewis

When we place ourselves as “better than” the root of hatred is sown.  “I would never do such a thing” when in fact we may do a version of such action daily.  It is a well-honed habit that is encouraged by the world.  While I may not ever murder a person as the Law warns I certainly have held murderous thoughts, which Jesus calls equal to the actual act.  

How does one reach the point of loving and maybe even helping those who we just want eliminated from our lives?  How do we till a blooming, beautiful garden in our hearts, not one filled with weeds?   Julie sought to worship God through her actions.  She knew that harboring ill feelings toward her father only hurt one person – herself.  When called by her stepmother for help she stepped forward in faith.  Faith that the Lord wanted her to show mercy and grace. 

As for me?  It’s taken me many years but I finally sought wisdom from the God who provides it generously (James 1:5).  The Holy Spirit has shown me it’s better to love than to feel hate and anger.  I call that hate the “Black Swirly Ball” that wants to spin around in my chest from time to time.  I’m listening to the Spirit when it allows me to feel out of balance.  I get quiet, turn off the tv, the music, the phone and say, “Reveal to me what’s going on, Lord.  Show me where my pride or my need to be in the right is shoving out love.  Help me to pray for that person, not about them.”  You see I want that Black Swirly Ball to unravel and loosen my chest.  Then I can breathe the fresh air of God’s beauty.  I give it up to God and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me not grab it back – ever.  I bring my raw emotions to the Lord and He clears my mind.  Often, He asks me to serve those I find difficult to serve.  When I do, I demonstrate to the people around me the work Christ has done in my heart.

My friends, if all we ever are able to do in the name of love is pray for the revealing light of God to enter into our “enemy” we’ve tilled the soil for something good to happen in us.  We’ve said to Jesus, “yes, I will love as you have loved me, a sinner for sure.”  We just need to be prepared for Him to ask us to take a step further and say, “Yes.”  In our real and true faith, we must believe without doubting that He will work it for our good and His glory.

“You have flaws, failures, and quirks that annoy and anger others.  In fact, you may be more like those whom you dislike than you’d care to admit.  But Jesus still loves you and died for you – just as He did for them.  What Christ did for you on the cross, He did for your worst enemy.  It’s when you humbly accept this fact that you can begin to love others as Jesus does.”  

Charles F. Stanley

Do you believe God?  Not just believe in God but have real faith in His words and promises.  If you do then you know He wants the best not just for you and your friends and family but for all people.  That person at work who is causing you so many troubles?  Show her love by seeing her as someone who has the weight of sin on her and needs your loving prayers.  The family member who speaks ill of you to the rest of the family?  He needs you to love him enough to ask God to intervene in his life.  The abortionist, false teacher, dictator, murderer, thief, liar all need you.  These people in one way or another are separated from God and I can’t think of a more terrible fate for which we should grieve.

Jesus commands us to love.  To love others as we are loved by Him, sinners one and all.  This week I encourage you to demonstrate your real faith and experience the greatest fruit ever to blossom from us – love. 

*Julie is not her real name

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