Friday, February 20, 2009

Choosing to love

"My point in mentioning this is only to say that people who feel any sort of regret where you are concerned will suppose you are angry, and they will see anger in what you do, even if you're just quietly going about a life of your own choosing. They make you doubt yourself, which, depending on cases, can be a severe distraction and a waste of time. This is a thing I wish I had realized much earlier than I did." from Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, page 7.

I need to go back through and read both Gilead and Home again, and write down every significant quote, because there are a lot.

I think what the narrator is saying in the quote above is that whenever a person feels guilty about something in regard to another person, he tends to begin to hate the other person. Slowly at first, and then with increasing vengeance. This is why relationships get so ugly. We understand why victims hate their perpetrators, but this explains why perpetrators also hate their victims.

If you have ever been the victim of someone's sin, you will know that it is true that the person, especially one who will not admit to doing anything wrong, hates you seemingly without cause. He hates you because the thought of you makes him feel guilty and bad, and the natural instinct of man is to believe the best of himself and to justify and rationalize his actions despite all evidence and facts.

This is a complicated thing, but I believe that it is true. If you are the guilty party (or if I am), and if we are harboring hate towards someone we have hurt, merely because we have acted hurtfully, selfishly, and don't like to face our own ugliness, then we need to ask the Lord to point the truth out to us and help us conquer the crippling hump of pride, confess and repent.

I have been studying the life of Peter (Jesus' disciple), and this week I have been reading about how he denied Jesus just before the crucifixion. Peter had massive regrets where Jesus was concerned, yet I have been incredibly impressed with how he handled himself in the aftermath. I never thought about it or saw it this way before.

Peter did not justify himself. He did not try to weasel out of what he had done (and I can see ways he could have approached it... after all, he was almost the only disciple who did not flee and hide; instead, he had bravely followed Jesus into enemy territory because of his love for Him; he could have appealed to these facts to try to rationalize what he had done).

Peter did not blame Jesus. Could he not have said, "You set me up for this... you even told me it was going to happen. I had no choice in the matter. It was predetermined. How can you blame me for this?"

But the most amazing thing of all (to me) is that Peter did not try to avoid Jesus when He started appearing to the twelve. The night they all went fishing (John 21), when Jesus appeared on the shore in the morning, as soon as Peter recognized who Jesus was, he jumped out of the boat into the water and hurried to shore as fast as he could go. Natural man would have been ashamed and embarrassed, perhaps even angry about what had happened. At the very least, natural man would have hidden himself behind the others and peeked out to moniter Jesus' expressions. Peter, apparently through the spirit of God, simply had a craving to be as close to his Lord as he could be. Full of love and trust, he ran right back to Jesus and gratefully ate the bread and fish Jesus had cooked for him.

To be a Christian, forgiven, cleansed and filled with the Holy Spirit of God, means to be able to break out of the natural pattern of bitterness, grudge bearing, guilt and regrets. It means we have total trust in the Father. We believe and know that He will accept us, love us, cleanse us and make us into new creatures capable of living lives that reflect His glory. Because of that, we don't have to worry about other people, building shields of protection, caution and hate. Our worth is in the One we worship, and those who may hate us because of their own sinful conduct are only to be pitied for the joy they are missing and the miserable bondage that drags them down day after day.

Jesus said, "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:44-45a) I think it is because Peter heard Him teach these words that he had confidence to know that Jesus would accept him back in love. We need to model our actions after Jesus' actions and thus create an increased atmosphere of love and safety in the world.

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