Open Hearts & Open Arms
After several months of intense study, prayer, and experience I am glad to finally be able to write concerning this! I say “several months,” however this is something that is central to the life of the children of God, so please do not misunderstand; it is something I had already been putting into practice, since the day He called me, but I haven’t really taken the time to study it in its fullness until several months ago. Though it is something that I say a lot when talking to others, bringing to light the importance of it, I wanted to have a deeper understanding of what it means to us as the children of light.
The sad truth is that most of us actually overlook that, or ignore it altogether. I have done my fair share of travelling and have met a lot of great people who genuinely love their neighbors as Christ has taught us to, though at the same time I have seen those who have a total and complete disregard for that command altogether. Now I am not condemning, or judging anyone —by no means would I! If I must judge, it will be with righteous judgment and not of my own accord or opinion— but let’s be real for a moment and acknowledge that there are things that we truthfully need to work on; one of the most important being the way that we, as the body of Christ, treat others!
We can look at what He says about it all day long, and reference dozens upon dozens of scriptures concerning it, but it will all be for nothing if we do not live it!
“But Josh, some people are just annoying or hard to be around.”
Truthfully, I tell you, that it does not matter how annoying they are if you do not treat them with love you are not actively living out the commandment of Christ, which is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
We get so caught up in our own opinions of things, and people, that we begin to let ourselves determine what is right as opposed to living the Word of God without question! How is it beneficial to the kingdom, to others, to always be bitter toward others? How is it love to never have anything good to say about the people you interact with? How is it godly to constantly have a negative attitude toward people who “annoy” you? How is it righteous to always treat others poorly, either to their face or behind their back? Would Jesus Christ do these things? Certainly not, and He commanded us not to!
In fact, He told you to “love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (LUKE 6:35) and when giving the commands to love God and our neighbor, He said this, “There is no commandment greater than these.” (MATTHEW 12:31) These are words directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself! Who are we to say that we love Him, but not abide by these, knowing that there is no command that is greater?
Like I said, we can reference what He said all day long there is certainly plenty of material to draw from in the Word! It will be of no good, no effect, if we do not actively pursue it and choose every day to live according to it! That means:
• setting aside our own opinions, our own feelings, our own thoughts and putting on His!
• You don’t like that person at work? Well practice treating them with kindness!
• Someone annoying you, or getting on your nerves? Instead of calling them names, pray for them!
• That person talking to you repeats themselves too much, or maybe they come across as a bit overbearing? Listen more intently!
• Someone has hurt you, or done you wrong? Forgive them!
• A person hates you, treats you badly, or slanders you? Treat them with kindness!
The whole point of being born again is that we are born into a new life, a new nature, a new personality and train of thought! We are brought out of our old ways and grafted into Christ, so that we live according to His ways and not our own or the ways of the world!
What does it benefit anyone, even yourself, to be bitter all of the time? What is achieved by being unforgiving and holding a grudge? What good does it do to never have anything good to say about anyone? A better question might be; How can we claim to be children of God if we do not live according to His ways, and love according to His love? We can’t— I did not bring a bucket of stones with me, but you are free to bring your own! BYOS.. Bring Your Own Stones!— because He said that anyone who says “‘I know God,’ but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.” (1 JOHN 2:4) We don’t have to like it, but we do have to obey it! A little secret— you may begin throwing those stones you brought at your leisure— if you truly love the Lord, if you are truly born again and seeking Him, then you will love obeying Him because it is the Spirit’s natural disposition to obey the commands of the Lord!
It is a joyous, a desirable thing to the children of God to obey Him because they love Him! It’s also a sign that you do love Him, because He said “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.” (MATTHEW 7:16) Now, you could say that scripture is talking about false prophets and you would be absolutely correct, but let’s not be foolish! Do we honestly think that false prophets are the only ones that will be known by their actions? No!
If you say that you love the Lord but you do not treat others with kindness and love, despite how “annoying” or how “lazy” or “overbearing” they are, then you do not love the Lord! The Lord said that!
I have met more people that live by their own opinions, than actually live by the Word of God! We can say what we want, we can think what we want, but God is not a liar! If He says it, you do it! It doesn’t mater what we think when it comes to His commands! What matters is that we obey!
His commands are not burdensome, and they aren’t wrong! He commands us to do what is good, to love and to be kind! How is that difficult to abide by? It becomes very difficult when allow our own opinions and feelings to interfere with the truth! It is a process of growth that requires serious action and determination! In other words, you have to actively pursue it, daily!
I assure you, there were plenty of people that annoyed me! There are a few that do! I have to decide, in those moments, not to act on my own fleshly desire to walk away and make myself listen! They may not be the easiest people to listen to, but they don’t have to be! It is my willingness to set aside my own desire to ignore them or walk away, or both, and make a point to stay and listen despite my own opinions and feelings that produces righteousness in me!
I am not saying that I am better than anyone! What I am saying is that it is something that even I have to do! I’ll be honest with you— I will hide nothing, so that it can’t be said that I say one thing and do another— it is something that I have to put into practice daily! I have been hurt, my heart has been ripped out and caused me pain that I would much rather not feel! I still have to forgive!! The Lord has put me in a place where I am able to be here for a lot of people; whether to help them through something, to pray for them, or just to listen, so I have contact with a lot of people and if I let my own opinions affect how I interact with anyone, then none of them would come to me! Love, however, is absent of itself and it does not think or speak negatively of others!
Well, let us look at what He says about love! He tells us that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away..” (1 CORINTHIANS 13:4-8) Things will come and go, but love will never fail!
I will say this; Your heavenly Father, your Lord and Savior, and Holy Spirit would not put such an emphasis on love if it were not important! In fact, He said to “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love,” (EPHESIANS 4:2) that we should “love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God,” (1 JOHN 4:7) and “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 PETER 4:8)
We know that hatred gets us nowhere, except for maybe in a worse position than we were previously in! Think about it! What does it achieve in your life to treat other people poorly, to think negatively of others, to have a poor attitude about others, or to speak badly of them? It does nothing but cause more bitterness, and more hate, and more trouble! He said this! “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” (PROVERBS 10:12)
The fact of the matter is that love looks a lot less like saying bad things about that person at work that you don’t like because they do this or do that, a lot less like speaking poorly of a person because of how they dress or how dirty they are, a lot less like calling someone names behind their back because they irritated you, a lot less like doing others wrong, a lot less like ignoring someone because they’re annoying, a lot less like walking away from some because you don’t like them, and a LOT more like “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (LUKE 23:34)
To put those words into context, something solid for you to grasp; Yeshua had just been so severely beaten that every bone in His body was visible to some degree, He was literally unrecognizable, bleeding and swollen, then He carried a cross some distance after having been beaten so severely— you can imagine that there were several times he had fallen to the ground because the cross was heavy and the pain was great, getting sand in His open wounds— yet He embraced it and pressed onward knowing that it was almost done! After the beating, having a crown of thorns pressed onto His head, carrying the cross, falling and pressing on, and being flogged as He carried the instrument of His death, they reached the peak of Golgotha, nailed Him to the planks and hoisted Him up.. He would hang there watching the people mock Him, saying “if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross,” (MATTHEW 27:40) as He bled to death on the cross that He just carried. All of this, and His words were “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
There is no suffering, no pain, no thing that can be done to you that will ever equate to what He experienced for you, taking your place and becoming a living sacrifice! There is nothing in this life, no person that will ever do to you what they did to Him; if there is, by some chance, a moment that you experience in which you are done as Christ was, stand up look the person doing it in the eyes and love them anyway!
We make so many excuses, but in the end there are none! If my Savior can ask Father to forgive those who beat Him beyond recognition and hung Him on a tree, then I can show more love to those who annoy me at work! If He can do that, then I can love those who treat me badly! If He can love them, then I can love anyone regardless of they have done or how they are!
This is not something that you can approach with a fleshly mindset and be successful in, it requires the absolute abandonment of ourselves and the putting on of His nature and His mindset!
If you strive for it, you will find it! He told us that we will find if we seek, we will receive if we ask, and no matter what anyone says or thinks we are recreated to do just that! Don’t let the opinions of others deter you from the good and perfect will of God; which is to love others, because He loved you first! If someone says to you, “I think this is what it means, or that,” and their actions are contrary to what the Word says, you do not listen! There is nothing, no one on this planet that has more authority than the Word of God, and their opinions will be ash in the end! Do not put stock in anything that is not Word of God truth, and do not trust in even your own opinions because He said “trust in the Lord with all of your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” (PROVERBS 3:5)
We should spend a lot more time letting Holy Spirit shape our opinions, than ourselves or others! We should give a lot more devotion to what His Word says, instead of trying to form opinions of it on our own! A heart that thinks it knows the Word of God, but does not obey the things that He commands is wrong! He said, commanded, yeah He demands that you “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” (JOSHUA 1:8)
He has given us a charge, all of us and not just some of us, to love each and every person that we come into contact with and to be living examples of His love! Beloved, there is so much more to this than just sitting in service a couple of days out of the week, or saying that we love God but not obeying Him! It is who we are, after having been grafted into Him and becoming living members of the body of Jesus Christ! We should be such examples of His love that is evident to all who come into contact with us; every second of the day, every day of the year!
You will never know what God demands, what He requires of you, if you do not seek it in His Word, and surely I tell you that you will never see His kingdom if you do not obey what is written! It is written, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (EPHESIANS 5:6) and “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (EPHESIANS 5:1-2) In fact, just read EPHESIANS 5:1-20, for that matter read all of the Word! Devote more time to it, because you cannot build a house without a blueprint!
It is time for us to stand up and to be living examples of His love, in everything that we do; forgetting our own opinions, our own thoughts, our own feelings, and looking to Him to empower us to do so because He said that He would send us His Holy Spirit to do just that!
It is time for us to do away with the pattern of the world, and rise above it! Time for us to stand boldly, proclaiming the love of God in every action that we take, every word we speak, and every thought we think! Time for our lives to be a light, as they are intended to, glorifying our heavenly Father with our very lives!
Love as He loves, because He loved you first! Love as He loves, because it is what you are recreated to do! You cannot have God, and not have love, because it written “God is love,!” It is in the Word that we are told to live by that “love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”