Love when hurt and hating
A recently media story of a couple in Japan suggested they haven’t spoken for 20 years! Their 18 year old son involved a national game show host to orchestrate a forced conversation because he’d never heard them speak to each other! It’s tragically funny!
So often it is the very relationships that should be wholesome and healthy that are sources of pain for us. Where there should be conversation there is silence; anger not love; confusion not security; and pain not healing. Marriages and families, in the workplace and at church.
Do you know that experience?
How can we functionally love someone who has harmed us? [or in fact we have harmed?]
Peter is writing to this very type of situation (look at the relationship-arenas he has covered in chapters 2 and 3!), he presents a sequence of five inter-related, escalating challenges for wise, real restoration.
1. Level-headed prayer
‘…be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray…’ (7)
When we think of those who have hurt us it’s anger, fear, confusion, revenge that drive us. Our emotions, perhaps understandably take over. That’s exactly what happens when we are drunk! Our emotions take control and we make all sorts of decisions our level-headed selves would see as the folly they were! So Peter is saying try and be level-headed – emotionally sober – about the situation so you can pray, however briefly for them. Don’t let your anger or fear define your response.
2. Ocean-deep love
‘…love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins…’ (8)
Peter does not say love makes the sin unimportant or clears it away or means you forget it. Like the Himalayan-sized mountains under the ocean, it simply means that mountain of sin is not the first thing you see or think of about that person. Now it may take days, weeks, months or years of gentle, sober prayer before that love is deep enough to cover the Everest-altitude harm done by someone. Don’t rush it. But over time it’s possible (remarkably so) to not define that person by their sin (while never forgetting its presence or reality).
3. Genuine hospitality
‘Offer hospitality to everyone without grumbling.’ (9)
Hospitality is more sophisticated that welcoming someone into our home. That may never be appropriate or wise with someone who is not safe. Hospitality literally means ‘to heal the enemy’. We get the word hospital from it too. As we pray and love rises so we find ourselves, months or years down the line, ready to try and find ways to heal the enemy. Wow!
4. Ready service
‘…use whatever gift you have to serve others…’ (10-11)
And part of that ‘healing’ is to consider what gifts you have (time, skill, money, expertise or experience) and seek to serve that very enemy with it! If it’s using words make sure they are ‘the very words of God’ – i.e. the sort of things God would say (11). If it’s a practical things you’ll only be able to do it with ‘the strength God provides’ (11).
5. Jesus glorified
‘…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.’ (11)
In ‘all things’, even these most painful and horrific damages done and relationships fractured, God is praised through Jesus! How? Think about it. What kind of relationship did we have with God? It was ‘dead’ (Ephesians 2:1-2) and we were ‘enemies’ (Romans 5:9). Jesus chose to serve and heal and restore, even to the point of dying, to see that restoration. ‘While we were still God’s enemies Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:9).
Even our worst ruptured relationships and sin-infected actions can be used to display on the horizontal person-to-person plain the wonder of what Jesus did on the vertical God-to-people plain. As we and others see a difficult relationship restored there is a taste; a glimpse of the restored relationship Jesus has enabled between us and God.
Is there one of these steps you could take today that might enable you to love when you are hurt and hating, just like Jesus did?