Continued from here.
Loving your neighbor as yourself requires us to prioritize other people above ourselves, so spiritually mature people repeatedly defer their own preferences in honor of others. Nothing about this process comes naturally because of our selfish sinful nature. The natural state for each of us is to choose the best for ourselves and follow our feelings. Only through spiritual maturity do we learn to humble ourselves as we honor others.
The way I learned this trait most effectively was by becoming a parent. I could not meet my baby’s needs without deferring my own preferences (such as sleep!) repeatedly as I placed my baby’s needs above my own. God gives new parents the grace of bonding through intense love, which helps them overcome their natural selfishness to prioritize the needs of a new baby.
Unfortunately, we don’t get the same feelings when it comes to deferring our preferences for annoying family members … or the people at work who are trying to sabotage us … or those who are bullying our child. When it comes to loving our enemies, obedience happens through a choice to obey God despite what we feel, and that’s hard to do. It takes spiritual maturity to bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us.
My preference was to hate my childhood abusers, nurse my bitterness, and hope they all burn eternally in hell. However, God commanded me to forgive them, which I truly, from the bottom of my heart, did not want to do. God placed a question on my heart: did I love Him more than I hated my enemies? If I loved Him more, then I needed to forgive them, not because they deserved it but because I would obey God out of love. Obeying God by forgiving my enemies through repeated prayer for them was one of my most life-changing experiences. It was through forgiving them that God healed my brokenness.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saying, “I got this.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]