I had the awesome opportunity to witness firsthand a conversation where love reigned completely. The conversation started with a “Hello”, as most do, and as it moved into deeper meaning, the reality of what was taking place brought me to my knees. I overheard a broken woman who began the conversation with manipulative crying, a sort of begging for someone to listen through her tears. As she spoke, she realized that the old ways were not working for her in this moment, so the truth was revealed. Out of her own mouth came her intentions of what her plans were, how she was going to see to it that they came to fruition, and it was so brutally honest that it took my breath away. The person on the other end did nothing more than listen with an open heart without speaking or asking questions that would send the brokenhearted person on the other end of the line deeper into paranoia and distrust. As I listened, I was completely caught off guard. How dare this woman, who knows the right way to go, continue to live her life as if she were dying? How dare she ask for the things she was asking for instead of asking for the right kind of help? How dare she speak such hurtful things to the only person on the planet who is still fighting on her behalf? Who does this girl think she is? Why can’t she just see? What in the world is she THINKING? And then I saw it…the truest love I have ever seen was radiated through the phone toward this beat down individual who had originally called for tangible things to be handed to her so she could continue her spiral to self-destruction. The love of Christ poured forth and covered her ever so gently. Her questions were not answered the way she desired, but she hung up the phone and chose to make right decisions for her life, THAT day anyway. As Susan Brogan always says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Never before had I really looked at myself long enough to see that I don’t love enough. I am stuck between love and legalism. What a hard pill to swallow.
Romans 9:30-32 (NASB) – What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
Let me give you the definition of legalism. “Legalism is strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit. the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works. the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.” That right there knocked me in the head. I didn’t follow the laws for a very long time in my life. I didn’t adhere to the laws of man or the spirit. I know what that feels like to live a life where every excuse in the book and every manipulative word that oozed from my mouth sounded better than the letter of the law. I was miserable. I see that misery on others, sad women who walk across the threshold of Jacob’s Well, and I desperately want them to get out of their old ways of thinking so that they can see clearly the Light of Truth. But that isn’t MY job. I become a Pharisee when I expect others who are still trying to figure out how they got to where they are, if they are going to try this thing, and who to trust, to follow the letter of the law with precision. There is no script to this. The law is there, written in black and white for us all to see and be convicted by and turn from our ways.
Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV) – You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Here is the thing. Some people were NOT taught how to live in Christ and have been living as just walking, breathing shells of people in this crazy messed up world their entire existence. However, I HAVE been taught, with regard to my former way of life. It’s my responsibility to love people where they are, not to place judgment on them when they just don’t know any better. Jesus is the means by which we are convicted and brought to repentance. Not through Julie. Does it hurt me to see people completely stuck in deception and living lies? Yes. Does it hurt knowing that they are exactly where I used to be? Yes. Does it hurt seeing them slowly kill themselves in their mind, body, soul, and spirit? Yes. Can I do anything about it? Yes. I can love them.
Never before have I opened my spiritual eyes long enough to see what real Christ-like love looks like before I was afforded this front row seat to an amazing encounter that blew my mind into the stratosphere. As I sat there and listened intently to the conversation, I was immediately torn. Who am I really? What do I stand for, really? My desire is to be like Christ, not like a pharisee who is following every letter of the law. I want to reach the broken, not push them away by my insistence on how they should behave. I want to love unconditionally, not judge. I still get it wrong, sometimes daily, but for the first time in my life, I see the truth. The truth hurts, but it will set you free.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 (NIV) – 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 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.9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The good people of Jacob’s Well loved me back to life when I was a dead woman walking in my own sins and transgressions. So who am I but a willing servant of the Most High God and I am called to LOVE.