Monday, February 2, 2009

Choosing Whom to Love

We have all heard that love is a choice. Spiritual growth leads to a level of life in Christ where we experience forgiveness, joy unspeakable, and the glory of God's presence. Loving Christ results in obedience, and obedience leads to worshiping God and loving others. We become peacemakers. We learn to endure in doing good. We stop "returning evil for evil" and, rather, we "return good for evil." The fruit of the Spirit characterize our lives. We begin choosing for God rather than against God. Even as we choose to love, we recognize the unseen spiritual powers that oppose us (Ephesians 6:12). They will counsel us to lash out, hate, hold grudges, seek revenge, push people away, and do all kinds of nasty things that hurt relationships. When we recognize that such thinking is the essence of spiritual warfare, we can begin to deal with it in the Lord's power. We also will find comfort, even healing, in our lives. The choice to love proved to be healing and transforming in Andy's life. He looked angry enough to spit bullets. As he told his story, I could understand his frustration. An injustice had occurred against his son, and it included verbal and physical abuse. But Andy's response was also excessive. He was full of anger, perhaps even hate. Rather than love and forgive, Andy sounded like he was ready to level the offender. "Last Sunday afternoon at church, while my wife was at a ladies' function, this idiot was watching the kids while they played in the gym. My son stepped outside the door to get a drink of water. My boy was unaware that he needed permission to get a drink of water. "Then this guy in charge grabbed him by the arm, dragged him back into the gym, and threw him down on the bleachers. He then proceeded to give my son a tongue-lashing in front of the other children and refused to let him get up for the next two hours. The guy even refused him permission to use the bathroom "I called him on this after the next service. This man then blasted me about what a creep my son was. "Last week four other people who had the same problem with the man-a true idiot-called to offer their sympathy. The grapevine works quite well at our church. I really want a piece of this guy. What should I do?" I don't normally give advice on how to take people down, so I quickly decided to move the conversation in a new direction. I told him I have experienced similar problems over the Years, so I could in part identify with how he was feeling. It was then I brought up the subject of forgiveness. I explained how Andy's bitterness was not only obnoxious but hurting him. Given time, it would "defile" or "stain" others around him, including his own son (see Hebrews 12:15). Andy trembled a bit. I wondered if he actually sensed the serious nature of his bitterness or if he wanted a "piece of me." But he nodded agreement: he became calm. Then the Lord granted him grace to forgive. The bitterness was swept out of his heart and it was replaced with the love of God. His twelve-year-old son found it quite easy to forgive the same man. Four years later, Andy wrote and explained what he did after he left the office. Dr. Copley, "I began praying for the man I was previously bitter towards. The Lord prompted me to pray that he would develop a love for children. Last Wednesday evening the same man gave a testimony in prayer meeting. He told how the lord had given him a deep love for children. That love became so strong that he and his wife chose to have a child of their own. He went on to tell about the blessings his little son had become to him. He is truly a changed man, and so am I. I am learning that the very thing God wanted to use to bless and strengthen me-my son-the devil tried to use to make me bitter. Andy had learned that the grace of God is greater than any sin. I believe the thing that is killing many believer's testimonies today is bitterness. When a believer is bitter, his attitude has the effect of saying to the enemy, "I have an opened a door of my life to you, so come and influence me." The Lord's answer to bitterness is always forgiveness. This is a sign post of love. Forgiving others when they despise us (or despise those we love) is supernatural. And it comes from having an agape love that will love others no matter what. Ultimately, giving love-and forgiveness-is a real choice each of us must make nearly every day. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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