“And there is something more important to God than all the sacrifices and burnt offerings: it’s the commandment to constantly love God with every passion of your heart, with your every thought, and with all your strength—and to love your neighbor in the same way as you love yourself.” -Mark 12:33
Last week we prayed that God would use us in big and small ways to truly love others, and to show them the love of God. Funny how God answers some prayers faster than others. Funny how those answers are often not at all what we expected…
Yesterday as I got home from running hours of errands, I pulled up to the mailbox to grab the Sunday paper. As I reached into the paper box I heard that still small voice of the Holy Spirit. It whispered “give your neighbor a Christmas card”.
Seriously, you want me to give the man who shot and killed my dog last spring, and then lied about it, until he realized he was caught, and then confessed to the police? Surely you do not mean that neighbor.
I knew right away that He meant that neighbor.
I had a flood of thoughts rush into my head. “What if thy neighbor responds to me? I don’t want to talk to him!”, “What will Tom say?”, “Sure- I will send him a card. Can it have a picture of Nana (my dog) on it…”
I then tried to reason with God. “Isn’t it enough that I don’t hate him? Isn’t it enough that I pray every time I drive by and say “I forgive you.” Often I even say “Bless them Lord”. Okay, most the time I say that. Sometimes I say “feel free to move out of our neighborhood”, but for the most part I say “I forgive you” :).
I text my friend and said “I think the Lord just told me to give my neighbor a Christmas card. I am going to need serious confirmation on that one.” She said she would pray right away. She really didn’t need to…
Sometimes you just know as you know you heard the still small voice of the Lord. It usually happens when you do just as I did; you find your mind reeling and your flesh objecting.
You also have words of scripture and sermon snippets rush through your mind. Words like How many times must I forgive? Love covers a multitude of sin. Unforgiveness hurts you more than the offender.
This morning as I closed my eyes to pray and ask what I should write about I heard in my heart “Love thy neighbor”. Can I just mention one more time how “funny” it is that God answers clearly and directly on some prayers…
So, I am assuming the Lord wants me to share this with you for two reasons. The first is so I will actually follow through with it. Now that it is out there, I have to do it.
The second is there may be someone in your life you need to forgive. Perhaps you have been like me. You have done the “partial” forgiveness. You have felt as though the fact that you no longer hate the person is enough. You have felt as though not wishing them evil, harm, and payback is enough. You have washed your hands of them and are just fine with never seeing them again. You can forgive them…from a safe distance.
But God isn’t a God of partial forgiveness. He is a “no more record of guilt, as far as the east is from the west” kind of forgiver. And he has called us to be the same.
What better way to show the love and character of God than to start with the unlovable? We can do this. He promises that his grace is sufficient!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for being the God of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Give me the strength to love others as you have loved me. Give me the grace to forgive as you have forgiven me. Give me the courage to do what is right. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Love, Grace, and Love For Thy Neighbor,