On Sunday the pastor presented a video that showed people at a Christian school who looked beyond the past of some incarcerated teens and encouraged them in a powerful way.
Ever since, I’ve thought about how I can’t get beyond the past with some people–especially if what they did hurt me or those I love. The person at the top of that list lately is a loved one (I’ll call him JJ) who got out of prison this week. Even though he proclaims he wants to get right with God, I find I don’t trust him. Just as I’ve too often been locked in my own past, I’m focused on his.
One of the young men from the video said after receiving unconditional love: “I see the world in a different way now… Having all that love raised my spirits.”
When I looked in the eyes of that young man, I wept. God whispered, “Can’t you have the same compassion for JJ whom I’ve brought into your life—this hurting soul who has been in a prison much worse than a physical one?”
Other questions going through my mind since Sunday are: Will I persist to show my limited, what’s-in-it-for- me kind of love or will I dare to love extravagantly—the way God has loved me? Will I stop looking at JJ’s past and look ahead at the wonderful plan God has for his future and help him to receive it and live it?
A verse that keeps going through my mind is Zephaniah 3:17. Only the Amplified version presents it this way.
The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will rejoice over you with singing. (emphasis mine)
With that verse God presents me with a challenge—to love enough to be silent and make no mention (out loud or in my mind) of JJ’s past sins. The proof that I’m loving him with God’s love is this: I will be able to rejoice over him with singing.
I confess I’m not quite there yet. But I’m willing to let God grow my compassion.
When I prayed during the church service for JJ whom I once again see as precious to God, He instructed me to treat him as if he is my own son. In the past I’ve fallen into seeing him as many other things out of impatience and hopelessness. At times I vowed I never wanted to see him again. Now God is saying, “Love him like a son.”
As I determine to do that, I sense how much God loves me and how far I’ve come. I’m seeing that to love God is to pass along His love to others—especially those who it seems don’t deserve it. The truth is none of us deserves it. That’s what’s so amazing about God’s unfailing love.
What about you? Is there someone in your life from whom you’re withholding love? Do you keep your eyes on their past? Bring them to God and ask him how to relate to them. Wonderful things will happen when you reach out in love—not only in the other person’s heart but in your own.
Here is the link to the inspiring video called A Game of Hope: