The Greatest Gift
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 1:13
Have you ever been going through a difficult time or an unexpected crisis and there was nobody around in your time of need? A time when you REALLY needed support and you found yourself by yourself? Or maybe someone has broken a promise and has let you down, yet again. When this happens, it causes feelings of hurt, disappointment, and bitterness. These negative emotions cause conflict and even break up family relationships, close friendships and cause some to leave the church. If we allow these feelings to take root in our hearts it becomes a grudge or an offense.
Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to forgive offense.” Like a kink in a water hose is offense and unforgiveness to our spiritual lives. God’s love, peace, joy, rest; His Spirit cannot flow fully because offense is a barrier. So how do we break this barrier of offense and find freedom to love and live a life of forgiveness, a life that reflects our Father’s heart? God is love and love is the answer.
Recently I’ve been thinking about and asking myself, “How do I treat people, respond to people, forgive people, love people, in comparison to how God loves, treats, responds and forgives me? God placed this life changing question on my heart because I was holding offense in my heart. When God brought this to my attention my first reaction was, “Well God is God.” Then I was quickened in my spirit and internally I felt God say, “The same God lives in you.” Yes, I was corrected but affirmed quickly. God living in us empowers us to forgive, love, show mercy, offer grace and compassion for others. Even those who have hurt us either knowingly or unknowingly. Some people may have hurt us or disappointed us without them even knowing that they have. When this happens, it can be disheartening. In part because you think highly of a person so your expectation of them is high. Or sometimes we can get on our high horses and think, “I’m always there for them and now when I need them most they are not there for me.” This is where offense, pride, and unforgiveness show their ugly heads. This also reveals our true motives and where our expectation lies, in mere imperfect humans.
We find direction in scripture in Psalm 62:5, “My soul wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” Our expectation must be from God alone. Here David said that his soul waited silently. When we expect all from the Lord our soul can be at rest because we know that God is faithful and He is fully trustworthy. We as people are not perfect, we might be striving toward perfection but we all fall short of the glory of God and in relation to people we all make mistakes. Some who may have let us down or even when we've disappointed others have had very good intentions but we just fall short. Nobody can fill ALL of anybody’s expectations and we should not look to people who are flawed to do so, nor should we try to be a “god’ in someone else’s life by people pleasing and attempting to be their all in all. Only God can do that and He must be our aim at giving; to His glory, and receiving; according to His good pleasure.
The Apostle Paul shows us a more excellent way; the way of love. (1 Corinthians 13) This agape love describes a love that is based on a deliberate choice to love rather than the worthiness of the one who is loved. This love goes against our flesh, our natural inclination. It’s a selfless, expect nothing in return love. A love that we have to put on. (Colossians 3:14) Now, seeing as we have to PUT on love tells me that we are not going to always feel or even want to love a person. In our flesh we may not want to put it on because we’re holding on to unforgiveness but if we are children of God, we are led by the Spirit of God and by His Spirit we are capable of doing it. (Romans 8:14) The same with forgiving. We may not feel like forgiving. In fact, we may think we are right in the matter so why should we forgive? Thinking that way is prideful, self-centered and prolongs the process. Paul urges, “Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another; if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do.” (Colossians 3:13)
Letting go of offense and unforgiveness is hard but with God we can do it. In fact, we have to if we want God to forgive us. Jesus wants all of our hearts surrendered to Him and we cannot offer it to Him fully if offense occupies a section, and unforgiveness has taken up residence in another part. God wants full capacity. Our whole hearts must be tender toward Him. His love poured out permeates the hard places enables us to love and forgive completely.
Jesus gave all and all our expectations must be in Him. He has to be the object of our faith not people. Love people, hope for the best but don’t get your hopes up by misdirected expectations. We are all pressing toward the mark of the high calling of God in Jesus, we have not already attained or already perfected but we are pressing on that we may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us. We have not yet apprehended but one thing we should do is forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead. (Philippians 3:1-14) Let go of offense and unforgiveness by faith. Take it to God in prayer with a sincere heart. Be honest before Him and He will help you. Love people, pray for them, they may be going through a tough time as well. Persevere in prayer for them and God will strengthen, settle, perfect and establish you. Then you will be free to live a life of love, forgiveness, and not being easily offended.
People will let you down. You and me have let others down. On our best day we miss the mark. God will allow or orchestrate a circumstance so that nobody is accessible so that we can look to Him from where all our help comes from. When God is all we have we realize He is our Source and He is more than sufficient. Yes, we have family, friends, mentors and people who are our core support group but they are extensions of God’s love. He is love and we as His beloved children are to be imitators of Him and walk in love—the greatest gift. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)