Long-Suffering and Loving Like Christ
As things get darker and harder it is tempting to be consumed with what is happening and how we feel about it. Whether you express how you feel publicly or keep it to your inner circle, it has been hard to watch what has been happening in our country and around the world. It doesn't matter if you are like me and have a lot of emotion or you are the person who isn’t about the feelings, this is tough.
We are all so over Covid-19. We are over having to wear the mask. (The division over the masks is a subject in and of itself!) To say that we are weary of the social distancing would be a gross understatement. As if this isn’t enough, we have had a presidential election that has shown our weakened state to every enemy we have. We have a racial division in our country with wounds so deep, I am not sure we will ever heal this side of Heaven. Depression, abuse, addiction, these are things that just keep getting worse. We just can’t seem to catch a break or even move forward at this point.
As a people, as a country, we are hemorrhaging from the bleeding of our souls. Some of this suffering has been self-inflicted through the acts of repeated sin, some are struggling because of the sins of others. The isolation is too much for people to handle, coupled with all of the powerful emotions that so many people have tried to ignore. We see this played out in the anger and rage we have seen in our streets throughout this last year. We see this in the ever-climbing suicide rates, no matter how much we try to help. We see this is the division of our people in the grocery store!
It’s not liked these things weren't a problem before, but now we can’t hide them. I am sorry, but it does feel a bit like the storms are converging and Armageddon is just about here. Scripture tells us that no-one knows when Jesus will return but one can't help to wonder if these things are a foreshadowing of things to come.
So much hurt. So much pain. So much sin. It's overwhelming.
When I am feeling overwhelmed, I tend to go before the Lord and tell him I am ready for him to come. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think the Lord is on my timeline, it’s just more of a plea of telling him I am overwhelmed with all that is happening around us. If I am being honest, there is probably a bit of fear involved in that as well. Fear of what is and what is to come. Now I know that fear is not of the Lord, but in my raw emotion, there is fear.
Every time I get to this place in confession with the Lord, the phrase I hear in my spirit is:
Long-suffering is one of the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 6:22
The definition of Long-suffering is:
patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship.
Up until recently, I have always looked at the Fruit of the Spirit and thought of human interactions. Have I long suffered with my family? My friends? The people the Lord has put in my path to show the Love of Christ to?
Have I appreciated those who have long suffered with me? Some have walked with me through a lot of life. The ups and the downs, the dark and the heavy. They have persevered with me even when it has been hard because they love me.
The one thing that I have not thought of is how the Lord long-suffers with us in our sin and rebellion.
Our Triune God long-suffers with all of us because He wants every person who is going to choose Him to come. He waits because He loves us all and wants none to perish. He patiently waits while looking at our hard hearts, our rebellious nature, and our selfish attitudes so that everyone has the opportunity to choose where they will spend eternity.
Within recent months I have been learning more about how the Lord long-suffers with us. He is a Holy God. We are human and have a sinful nature. We as a people grieve the Lord in our everyday thoughts and actions and He still loves us, even in His grief. He watches this unfold in front of him all while giving us the truth that will set us free. He provides all that we need to turn our hearts to Him. We don’t have to work for it, we can’t pay for it, all we have to do is accept the truth He has given us.
So, you see, when I stand there and ask, “O Jesus when are you coming?” It reveals to me my selfish heart. I want Him to come back because I am afraid of what is to come, I want the suffering to end, I want the corruption to stop… I want… I want… I want….
I want Him to come back so badly, until….
I see the faces of those who won’t be going when Jesus comes…
Then my prayer changes to inexpressible cries for those I love who aren’t there yet. It’s not about the rules and the judgment we cast so easily. It becomes about being more like Christ. My prayer changes to "Lord help me to love like you do." Even in that plea, if I am honest, there is fear that he will ask me to do something I don’t want to do like show love to those who hurt me.
Again, selfishness and fear.
Can you hear the double-edged sword of the living word of God penetrating, not just my heart but dividing my soul and spirit, judging my very thoughts and attitude? I might want to long- suffer for those I love, but do I really want to long-suffer for those who have hurt me and betrayed me. Do I want to long-suffer alongside sins that look different than my own in the hope of sharing Jesus with those in need? How about sharing Jesus with someone who has a different political opinion than I do? What if long-suffering looks like spending time with people who disagree with you because you desperately want them to know the love of Christ?
The question comes down to this: Do I really want to love like Christ? According to the scriptures, the answer should be yes. The Lord has long-suffered with you and I, now He has extended the honor of inviting us to long-suffer alongside Him for our Nation, our people, the world around us. He has commanded us to share the Good News of the Gospel. He has taught us how to do this by sharing the truth in love.
So, when we see our country coming apart at the seams...
When we can see what looks like the enemy gaining ground in the lives of those, we love...
When we are overwhelmed with the depravity we are faced with, both in the mirror and in our streets..
That is when we need to lean into God’s presence
and power to do what we cannot do without Him-
We need to love enough to long-suffer with those we love and those we don’t because there will come a day when the trumpet will sound, and it will be too late for those who didn't choose Jesus.