Today I wanted to talk to you about a topic that God has been working on with me lately. That topic is the word “unless.”
This year has been a big year of growth for me. I’ve had a lot of processing to do, and a lot of it has been regarding issues/experiences that have been very close to my heart. There have been people this year that I’ve had to fight to forgive, situations where I’ve felt angry (both at others and myself), and worse, times when I’ve felt (wrongly) justified in that anger. I’ve had to do a lot of digging to figure out the whys behind a lot of those feelings and experiences, some of it unpleasant, some painful, all of it revealing and leading to more goodness, forgiveness, and grace.
Thankfully God has been gracious throughout all of this (as always), both in helping me to forgive and in forgiving me.
Which brings me to my main point, the lesson I’ve been learning: that with Jesus, there is no unless, which is both a great and terrible thing.
For example, the Bible doesn’t say, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life unless they struggle with addiction, lied last Tuesday, or don’t wish their mother a happy birthday.”
There is no sin that can keep you away from God if you’re willing to repent and ask forgiveness (and by the way, no, I don’t think not wishing someone happy birthday is a sin).
But by the same token, the Bible also doesn’t say, “Love your neighbor as yourself unless they made you angry on Facebook, come from a different ethnic background or class, or aren’t making the decisions that you think they should were you in their shoes.”
Jesus is very clear on these. Forgive your enemies, love your neighbor, care for the orphan and widow. There are no stipulations on these, no caveats that make you or me special when we try to plead our case.
And I’m not saying that you can’t or won’t struggle to do it. Lord knows this last year has been a case study in the same for me.
However, having seen the immense damage that comes in through these justifications, both in my relationships with others, my relationship with God, and my relationship with myself, I will say that fighting to follow his commands, putting aside my own opinions on who deserves what and when, is worth the fight. God’s discipline is a mercy, and the longer we fight it, the harder things will be, the blinder we will become to the wickedness in our hearts.
More often than not, the very thing that can stir me up to a rage in others is the very thing I do in return. For example, settings conditions on love, shutting out others, being judgmental or passive-aggressive. And even when I don’t see myself doing the same things (or at least haven’t figured it out yet), these situations still reveal other things in me of equal evil. Resentment, condemnation, wishing for others to fail. All of these are deep, hurtful problems I’ve found and the damage they cause can be and has been catastrophic.
And yet, God doesn’t say unless. He stays, He loves, He convicts, and He coaches, His kindness leading me to repentance.
God has forgiven me of more than I could ever imagine. He sees the true condition of my heart, sees the mirrored problems I don’t, sees the wounds I dig in myself and others. His forgiveness is a scandal.
And if He can do that for me, for someone who does the same things I loathe in others, how could I not do the same? How could my response, my worship, be anything less than to extend that same forgiveness to others, to love, to care?
God calls us to love, to do these things for everyone, no matter the circumstances, no matter the condition.
This Christmas season, the time for celebration, family, and friends, it’s time we stop adding “unless.”
So, have you ever struggled with this? When have you made excuses and what was the result? Do you have strategies that help keep you on track to avoid problems like these? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below and if you’d like more content from me, feel free to subscribe and follow at any of the links in the sidebar.