Red Cheeks and Broken Hearts

faith hope love

“Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.'”
“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Mark 12:29–31, Matt. 5:43–45).

You can’t effectively do the Great Commission unless you’re living in the Great Commandment. But be honest. Sometimes you have a problem with the whole “turn the other cheek, bless those that curse you” thing. You’ve done it out of obedience, but all you seem to get are red cheeks and deep–seated anger. Maybe it’s difficult for you for the same reason it was difficult for me: you think forgiveness is primarily meant to benefit the abuser, while you just have to suck it up as a good little Christian and carry the pain as part of your cross. Creating an atmosphere of grace for the person who wounded you may be a result, but it’s not the point. You are.

A broken or incomplete heart can’t love unconditionally. It’s always looking for something to make it whole before it can ever consider giving love away. In other words, you can’t fully love anyone, including the person who hurt you, until you can love yourself. God’s thoughts toward you are always to heal and help you become the person He sees you as (Jer. 29:9, Romans 12:1–2, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph.4:22–24). But you can’t experience His thoughts if you’re wallowing in your own. Focusing on the pain, offense, humiliation, rejection, and injustice others have projected at you—rehearsing it over and over—keeps you stuck right where you are.

The negativity of that place leaches into your voice. Everything you speak is saturated with bitterness, judgment, hopelessness, anger, complaint. The language of hell. That’s why Jesus says to forgive, and bless those that have hurt you. The moment you do, it’s like throwing your hand up so He can pull you out of the pit you’re in. Jesus didn’t tell you to pray for those that have despitefully used you to break you. He’s offering you that to free you. In blessing someone else, you break off your own chains. As you forgive those that hurt you, you’re putting the pieces of your heart into God’s hands. He is healing you. You are whole, and not alone. You see yourself as He does—who you are becoming in His love and grace, and begin to see the same for others.

Love is the state of your heart, because you are in Christ, who is love itself. Hope is the state of your soul, because you see and think as He does, knowing His goodness is greater than any circumstance. Faith as the privilege of the body may seem odd, because we know faith as the substance of what we hope for, and the evidence of what we can’t see (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is a privilege of our body because though love is eternal, we won’t need the kind of faith in heaven we do here in our time on earth. Each day is a privilege and an opportunity to live it in faith, being bold in His love, and confident in the hope of seeing His goodness here on earth. That’s why we can’t waste our privilege on living in bitterness, or isolating ourselves for fear of being hurt. And why in faith you can feel the kiss on your cheek from your Father, making all the stinging stop.

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