I love the humbling process God brings into our lives....said no one ever. If given the choice, I do believe I'd rather sit in a cushy chair atop the mountain (with some organic coffee bean and some bon bons, please) rather than drudge through the mud of the valley below. No saint who has experienced the trench of humility enters it willingly, at least not when it follows a season of hidden pride. The corporate exec who rises to the elusive "top" and falls in love with the money of his success rarely begs the Holy Spirit to remove it all in a day. His years of tireless toil afforded him a status and wealth that elevates him above the poor. Though he once started out as a man with a righteous mission, his profit and gain turned to avarice and self-promotion. Now, when he walks past the homeless beggar, he scoffs at the lowly man's plight rather than buy him a loaf of bread. Within a day, however, his life meets an untimely end and he stands before his Maker. Suddenly, the money, fame, and success mean precious little as his eternal life begins. Was it a life worth living? Did he accomplish his God-given mission or his own agenda? We read of a similar story in Luke 12:13-21. The rich man in Jesus's parable stored up treasures, but forsook his true love and calling. At the end, what did it matter? His legacy is now merely relayed as a parable of foolish pride. Let that not be our own testimony. Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that every successful and wealthy person is prideful and foolish. On the contrary, some of the most God-fearing individuals have attained great wealth and status and still maintain a depth of genuine humility. Pride is no respecter of persons. The rich young ruler and poverty stricken panhandler are equally susceptible. I, too, have walked in it, fallen by it, and stood back up to conquer it time and time again. What about you? Do you take pride in your own abilities or the God who gave them to you?
In recent months, I've been forced to examine my own position of arrogance and pride as I pursue God's direction for my life, and it is with bittersweet reflection that I share the details. The beauty of a humble spirit is often visible only after the dagger of self-righteousness has pierced the soul. For much of 2020, I preached various lessons about loving as God loves, showing grace as He does, and looking at others with a depth of mercy only possible by the power of His Spirit. While the messages I shouted from the rooftops were on point and valuable for anyone seeking to understand the width, depth, and breadth of God's mysterious and lavish love (Ephesians 3:17-19), I was quick in identifying the hatred and ego in others, yet entirely too slow to look upon my own. This matters on any scale, but especially so for the one preaching on God's love, and it wasn't until earlier this year that I clearly saw my own sins of anger turned hatred.
I lost much in 2020, and while I still stand by the choices that preceded the losses, the subsequent fallout with one person in particular was the match that lit a fire of hatred in my own heart. Gradually, my open rebuke of others for their inability and unwillingness to love like Jesus (John15:13) became an unknowing sermon of hypocrisy. Ever so slowly, God began to show me that I was acting no differently than those I called out. The magnifying glass I had placed on the hearts of others for their failure to love without limits turned inward and became a mirror in the hand of God (Matthew 7:3). Love as God loves, I preached. Yet, inside, my own hatred for one man began to grow. The message I proclaimed was increasingly incongruent with the meditations of my heart, and it was a deception I couldn't even see until the Lord showed me. Psalm 19:14 says "let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord," but if the meditations of our hearts are bubbling over with hatred for another person while the words of our mouths speak love, then mass deception has occurred and hypocrisy reigns. 1 John 4:20 leaves no room for debate: "whoever claims to love God but hates a brother or a sister is a liar." And there it was...the mirror that shattered my own false image of superiority in matters of loving the unlovable. I prided myself on how I loved as Jesus loves, yet I forgot to love the enemy whose very existence caused disdain to rise within me. Luke 6:32 - 36 says this: If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that...but love your enemies. Do good to them...be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
Allow me to break the news to you - you can be in a room full of a hundred people and love 99, but if you hate one, you're still doing it wrong. It's an ugly feeling, friend, and it cannot be hidden. It will surface in your demeanor, it will drip from your words, and it will overtake your core if you don't check it and chunk it. In my situation, I grew in hatred for this particular man for a number of reasons, but I promise you none of those reasons were acceptable to the God who made him. He's no more or less of a sinner than anyone else, so I'm tasked with looking at him through the lens of Christ. I may never like him or even want to be around him, but by the grace of God, I am commanded to love him. Likewise, you also must love..not just the lovable, but also the other.
We are all works in progress, so let's allow one another to be where we are on the journey to where we're going. When we miss the mark and fall down, let's extend our hand to help one another up. I see you, and you're doing better than you think. Keep going, friend, keep going.