Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Practice of Love

Most of you know that I recently had the opportunity to join a community of authors in writing for The Practice of Love: Real Stories of Living into the Kingdom of God.  This is a collection of essay by a community of writers that examines what it means love God, ourselves, our neighbors and our enemies in today's culture.  We know that God has called each of us to love in extraordinary ways in all facets of life, but reality proves that this is sometimes easy said than done.  This book provides real life personal stories that will cause the reader to examine what it really means to love in the Kingdom of God.

In contributing to this project, I experienced a lot more personal spiritual insight than I thought would.  I chose to write about what it means to love our enemies because this has always been a difficult thing for me.  We live in a very self-centered culture, so our first reaction in dealing with enemies is usually to place focus on ourselves and how we've been hurt. I don't know about you, but I often think of the person who wronged me and immediately contemplate how I can get revenge and make the offender hurt as I've been hurt.  Not only that, but I usually feel the need to be justified.  What I mean is that I want the other person to realize what they've done was wrong and know, deep within their heart, that they are wrong.  Nothing aggravates me more than someone arrogantly strutting around as if they've done nothing wrong, completely oblivious to the pain they've caused me.  But as a follower of Christ, is this what He calls me to do?  Is this the kind of reaction that will advance the Kingdom of God?  Or does my returning anger with anger, only hinder others seeing the Kingdom in the way Christ wants it to be seen?  These are the questions that I wrestled with as I wrote my essay.    

Ironically enough, over the last few weeks, we have been witness to possibly the quintessential example of an enemy in Osama Bin Laden.  Consequently, with his death, we have all been given a opportunity to examine this issue in the clearest example that we will probably ever have before us.  To me, it was as if God revealed this scenario to me and said, "OK.  You just wrote an essay on what it means to love your enemy, right?  Well, here's THE enemy.  Love him."  Really, God?  I tell you that it's hard for me to swim and you throw me in the middle of the ocean?     

After my experience with The Practice of Love, I find myself wanting to love more.  Specifically, I find myself wanting to expand the way that I love my enemies.  Basically, I came to a realization that I don't want to hate anymore.  I don't want to judge anymore.  I'm finding that I don't feel the need to be "right" all the time, and "win" the arguments, whatever "winning" means.  Instead of actively seeking reasons to be angry with my enemies, dislike or even hate them, I'm learning to seek out ways that I can love them.  What are ways that I can connect with that person and find unity?  Whether or not they "feel" my love for them, how can I really love them, and more importantly,what does that look like in the Kingdom of God?

Those of you that know me, know that I can have somewhat of a temper.  It doesn't take much to set me off, and usually that comes out in dealing with my enemies.  But many years ago, a mentor of mine gave me some advice that I've never forgotten.  It was one of those gems of wisdom that is written on your soul, under the file name: Wisdom.  This man, that was quite a bit older than me, recognized that I often got angry with those that hurt me.  Not only that, but he also recognized that I had the somewhat obsessive desire to "be right" or "win" the argument.  One day, he sat me down and said the following: "Jake, people are going to wrong you throughout your life.  It's going to happen again and again.  But YOU have the choice of how you are going to react to them.  Why is it so important for you to be justified?  Instead, allow them to believe that they've won.  For whatever reason, they felt the need to hurt you.  Let them have it.  It's theirs.  Instead, find a way to do something kind for them.  Find a way to show love to them.  By doing that, you will almost always soften their hearts.  When that happens, then, and ONLY then, can you sit down with them, explain how they hurt you.  99% of the time, they will understand and ALLOW you to be justified.  Then you both win.  That's a better deal, right?"  Yes, Pat.  That's a much better deal.  Thank you.


Jonathan Brink said...

Thank you Jake, You can see a list of all the participants here:

Jeremy Myers said...


Thanks for writing. I read your chapter today, and it was great. It really shows God teaching you through how you dealt with David.