He executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, he lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves those who live justly. The LORD watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. -Psalm 146:7-9

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Living In The Hood Is Saving Me - Love Edition

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
.." 1 Cor. 13

I stated in a tweet awhile back that I would write about the many ways I'm being SAVED in the midst of living and doing ministry in an urban context. Instead of posting a list, my plan is to do a series of blog post that explain what I mean. This being the first..

To love is a hard thing to live out. I have failed at it so many times. It's "always" easy to "love" someone who is just like you, who agrees with what you say, who is involved in the same circles as you are. I've been convicted at my poor example of love. When I'm slandered, misunderstood, mis quoted, when my feelings are hurt, my husband is slandered, my child is mistreated, I look at these as an excuse to "cut you out of my life". But...

Was this Jesus example of how to handle such offenses?

"For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH;and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats....1 Peter 2

Christ continues to show me HE is the standard and the measure I'm to use when it comes to loving others. I'm horrible at this, I always feel like I have to defend myself, prove to you what I meant, seek vengeance on my own and not wait for the Lord. For the past 2 months I've cried out to Lord asking Him to make me a humble servant. It wasn't until today that I realized He is answering those prayers through the conflicts I'm facing. I have the privilege to practice humility in the midst of difficult and challenging times. Will I try to defend myself or the gospel? Will I try to show others I'm a good person or show them who Christ is and how I desperately need Him? Will I remove the log out of my eye before I try to remove the speck out of others? Will I entrust myself to the ONE judges righteously?? Will I confess whatever sin I have so that I may be healed??

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
..1 Cor.13

Everyday as God's mercies are new so should be my slate towards those whom I feel have wronged me. As Gods mercies are new, so should my attitude (humility) be to towards those I have sinned against. We live in a culture that lives by the rule, "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me". In other words, If someone tricks you twice, it reflects on you. It means you are the fool to be gulled twice by the same person- you already knew you couldn't trust them.

This is not the type of love Christ calls me to live out. The saying above breeds bitterness & unforgiveness.

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven...Matthew 18

As I'm called to live amongst & minister (through family life, CGM and place of worship) to those different then me, God is indeed saving me from a lifestyle of selfishness & pride.

I believe these lessons wouldn't have had this same impact on me if it wasn't coming from this place God is allowing it to stream from. Living here and doing life with this body of believers is saving me from myself and the wandering my heart wants to do when things get tough. Christ plans for us are always better. He's full of wisdom and knows us better then we will ever know ourselves. I cannot simply love the way Paul describes and Jesus lived until I myself learn to die. When Jesus calls a man, (in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer) he bids him come and die.

Thank you Jesus for saving me, teaching me how to love, and forgiving me when I mess up.