20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. -I John 4:20 – 21
Last week a battle ensued between my two boys (ages 12 and 7) that ended with my 7-year-old throwing an empty suitcase down the stairs at his big brother.
Clearly, we have our act together in my household.
Tears and anger, and borderline hatred stifled the air for what had started as a day we all hoped to connect and enjoy one another.
I sat those two boys side by side on the stairs—the place they know their mama is about to preach to them—and asked, “Have you lost your mind?”
But after I caught my breath, I looked at them both and said quietly, “Do you love me?” To which they both replied, “We love you, mom.”
I looked back at them and said, “Boys, I love each of you fiercely. It hurts my heart when you can be so ugly to each other. We can be stronger than this together. Let’s make it right.”
At that moment, I realized God had put me on the stairs and was looking at me with a few people in my mind I could have thrown a suitcase at. I felt Him say, “Haley, do you love me? It hurts my heart when you carry that kind of bitterness towards my other children. That’s not who I am. That’s not my DNA, and it is not my name. You’re my daughter; that’s not your name either.”
In an instant, I went from feeling like I had a victory as a parent to realizing that I carry more apathy, resentment, and bitterness towards some of my Christian family than I care to admit. And that lack of love not only breaks relationships but poisons my own heart from the rich fullness I crave.
Jesus told his friends that people would know they were His disciples if they loved one another (John 13:35). Pastor and civil rights leader, John M. Perkins, said, “Love is the final fight.”
So how exactly do we fight—not out there—-but in our own hearts where the seeds of hatred exist?
I believe one of the most powerful secrets to loving those in our lives who are difficult to love is to intentionally look beyond what is and what has been and instead look with the eyes of a perfect father and creator to see what He sees in a person.
If they are just mildly irritating, look at their heart and desire to give and receive love and kindness, even if it is a little too sunny for a 7:30 a.m. school drop-off.
If they are addicted, who did God make them to be before the sickness took over?
If they are hurtful, what could they possibly have been hurt by or afraid of that would cause them to lash out that way?
If they are hateful, who could they be if their energy was converted to passionate love?
We cannot change people. That is not our work to carry. But we can ask God for eyes to see them through redemption’s story and fight the war of love to serve, honor, pray for them, and pursue reconciliation insofar as it depends on us. This is the heart of the Father, and this is the call for us as children of light.
Now go. Run hard and love strong this week.