Yesterday, on of my closest friends wrote me trying to explain why he has been kinda a flakey, cold jerk to me for awhile. But instead of writing an apology, it seemed to turn into almost more of a “why the heck do you just lie down and take crap from me Marissa?” He said I needed to stand up to him and wants me to just tell him off instead of letting him away with things and saying, “It’s ok, I still love you. I forgive you.” He knows that he can be selfish and mean towards me, but thinks he treats me the way he does because there are no repercussions from me. He also said that He feels he hasn’t earned my kindness personally, and that no matter what he does good or bad, I am still nice and loving towards him, which must mean I just don’t understand him or take the things he does on a personal level of who he is. The following is my response to him, and any one who might wonder why I act the way I do:
My Dear Friend,
I think that truthfully it is you who can not understand my actions, and for good reasons. I understand you pretty well and why you do what you do. But my actions… Well, they come from something much deeper than the fact that I am just a nice person or I am to dumb to understand you, or just totally blind and I still think you are amazing. On the contrary; I SEE you. I see a boy who has been deprived of love his whole life. Who has not experienced even the most basic love of a nurturing and caring mother. A boy who was mistreated and used again and again by people, and after being used was thrown away like trash when people were done with him. I see a guy who still fought to rise above those circumstances and chose to still make his life better and do something worthwhile with his life. You welcomed the adversity and chose to still fight to make good out of it and to learn as a person from it. I see a guy who has seen pain, death and suffering, and yet has chosen not to succumb to those things. I see a being that strives for excellence, that is filled with passion, and may be the hardest worker I have every seen. And yet even with an amazing career, a great home, friends who care, and being a good looking guy, instead of seeing someone who has it all together, I see someone who is lost. Someone who still wants MORE. BETTER. Someone not willing to “settle”, yet not knowing what will truly fulfill him. You are searching and lost, yet longing to find what will complete you. What will finally solve that puzzle and make your picture whole: i.e. The next job, the perfect woman, etc…
I also see a guy who doesn’t know how to be a friend. You have been treated so crappy throughout your whole life that you don’t know how to truly love, or what a true friend even means. Loyalty and forgiveness have a limit. Someone should only love you if you deserve and earn it, because all your life that is what everyone has told you or showed you. So you understandably act in ways that are selfish, that put up walls to not let people in because then they could hurt you. And you push away those that might actually truly care. You know that deep down you are NOT a good person. You make mistakes, and you don’t even really deserve forgiveness and love. You see your depravity, and think how could anyone actually love me unconditionally? I don’t deserve that.
I see you Very clearly friend. And guess what? I don’t care about all that. I KNOW who you are, the good and the bad, and I still choose to love you. But not because of anything you have done, but because God first loved me. I believe that a loving, intelligent being created me, not because he needed me, but because he wanted me. I believe he loves me, not because of anything I have done, but because of who HE is. HE is the very essence of anything and everything that is good, true, right, joyful, and loving. I believe He IS good. But I believe that I am not… Man was created to be good, but when given the choice between innocence and the knowledge of evil, man chose to know what evil was. Man CHOSE to know things outside of God. To know what evil meant, including pain, sin, and death. And because God loved his creation, he gave them the option of choice and free will. However the consequences of their choice was that man was no longer inherently “good”. Yes, we had the potential for good in us. But we also had the potential for bad… In fact it was probably what we were more likely to choose from now on, what would come most easily to our nature. So God, being everything that is right and just and good, had to separate himself from humans that were now fallible and sinful. The punishment for their sins was spiritual death. They no longer walked side by side with God, or talked with him and shared everything. They no longer had a personal relationship with their creator, because he could not be present when their sin was there. Yet God did not forsake his beloved creation. He did not say,” You no longer deserve my love. I am done with you”. Instead His heart broke and He said I still want you. I MUST have justice, but I will make a way to save you from your self and your sin. I will find a way to redeem you!
So for awhile he set up a temporary system, a system where they had to act out the pain they had caused God by a physical sacrifice. They had to take a perfect lamb, small, nothing wrong with it at all, and in a gruesome act, they had to, with their own hands, slaughter the lamb. Only the clean and spotless blood of the lamb could “cover” their sins in the eyes of God. It had to be a painful and difficult “sacrifice”. It was not simple. It was not easy. And it made them see how serious the horrid things they had done were to God. Then a priest had to intervene on their behalf with God, because man was still seperated from the Holy and perfect spirit of God. But it was only a temporary system, for killing an animal does not truly save a person. It was simply a sign, a reminder and hint to what was to come. God had a plan that was to be revealed in his own time.
And so it was that God sent his son Jesus, born from a virgin and not from the seed of a man. He was born spiritually alive and already filled with the spirit of God. He was a spotless lamb, with no sin in his nature to separate him from his father and creator. He was sent as a witness to the world, but even greater, he was sent as the Ultimate sacrifice. Those lambs that the people had been killing for years were only a picture of the one lamb that would sacrifice his life and cover the sins of all people in the eyes of God. So Jesus willingly laid down his life; he let men beat him, torture him to the brink of death. He suffered as great as any man has ever suffered. And on top of that he also took on the guilt and shame of any and every sin that man has ever committed. He felt the greatest depth of what it is to be rejected, bullied, hated and scorned. He felt what it means to be so covered by sin, that God can not be near you and literally forsakes you. He felt every bad and evil emotion possible: hatred, pain, rejection and depression. He willingly took on all that, endured the beatings, and carried his own cross to the place where he would be nailed to it and hung up to die the most agonizing and prolonged death the Romans could think up. And as Jesus hung there on that cross, thirsty, bleeding, dying, all while being mocked, he said: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And then in perfect obedience he gave his life up, and that debt of sin that for so long had kept us separated from our Just God was finally paid.
In that moment we were FREE. Free from sin and separation from God. Free from the “law” and the need to perform sacrifices. Free from having to go through a “high priest” to have communion with our creator because of our sinfulness. The curtain in the temple was torn, and now that relationship that Adam and Eve had once had with God could be restored. We now had the opportunity to be “reborn”, this time as people who were spiritually alive. See, the curse that came with the fall was that man would now “die”. Man would no longer be automatically born into communion with God, but was born into sin and death. But now if a man chose to be “reborn”, he was born into grace and life. All that one has to do is believe and accept this: that I as a person am evil and in no way can save myself from the sin and evils within me. But I do believe that God has made a way to save me, and that even though I in NO way deserve to be saved, God, being the essence of Grace and love, chose to overlook my unworthiness and saved me, not because of anything I have done, but because of what He has done. Now I can have a real relationship with God, and he has showed me how to through his inspired word of the Bible.
SO, In light of all that and that being the basis of who I am and everything I believe, why then do I love you and treat you the way I do? Because God has called me to. I believe that God created all people, and that he died for all people. I believe that every person is special and unique and priceless. I believe that God loves you unconditionally dear friend, and that I am called to do the same.
As a believer and follower of Christ, God has called me to act in a way that is not the way the rest of the world acts. He has challenged me to do things that go against what most people instinctively do. When you hurt me, I choose to forgive you instead of striking back at you. God has called me to forgive you not just once, but over and over and over… With out any end really. In fact he calls me to not only forgive, but to go even father beyond that and to do everything in my power to show you love. To sacrifice my wants and desires, to turn the other cheek. I do this not because it feels good. Of course sometimes I get mad and want to lash out at you, and I apologize for any times that I have! But that is not what God wants me to do! When I wrong God, he doesn’t say, ” Hey, your being a brat and I never want anything to do with you!” No instead He tells me that I am forgiven and loved, and his grace is UNENDING. NOTHING I can do will ever exhaust the grace of God. It is greater than the ocean, more expansive than the stars in the universe, deeper than you will ever understand. If God has such great grace towards me, then should I not have such great grace towards others!? At least as much as I am able to as a simple human being? And in the same way should I not do my best to love everyone unconditionally and forgive just as I have been forgiven? See, how could I accept the grace and love of God, but then turn around and refuse to give it to others?! I can’t do that. I can not live my life in such a hypocritical way.
So I love you, because God first loved me. And I do my best to love you in a selfless, non-judgmental, giving way. I try to love you as God has loved me, though I know I will never come close. And I expect you to do crappy stuff! I expect you to act selfishly because you are still controlled by your human nature and do not know the love of God like I do. I want so BADLY for you too…. I see your confusion and lostness and I want so badly to point you toward the truth and the healing and the completeness that comes when one knows God. I want you to be happy and secure in His love. To know true Joy. To be able to overcome your first nature of selfishness, and to be able to also be a person that is kind and loving and forgiving. But I do not expect those things from you. How could I expect you to act like a “good” person? Outside of God there is no goodness. I truly believe that. Any good thing that is done comes from God, and any evil done is outside of God. You, my friend, are outside of God. I hope that one day that will change, but for now I am called to love you exactly where you are, and to show you just a glimpse of what Gods love is; just a tiny sliver of an example of what his grace and forgiveness is like. I may stumble sometimes, but I will keep trying.
So no, I am not going to change and start being a jerk to you. I am not going to stand up to you and tell you off, because I don’t believe that is the best way to do things, and I think that you are far more convicted by my reactions of love. The bible says to love your enemies, to do good to those who hate you, and Proverbs 25:22 say that by doing this you will “heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” I think you are feeling this right now. I think that the Holy Spirit of God is convicting you as you look at your self and you see your self acting in ways you don’t even want to act. And you see me acting in ways you do not understand because it goes 100% against human nature. I am called to be a “light”, something that sticks out, that doesn’t belong in the darkness of our world. And you know me, I am not the kind of person that goes around always preaching or judging. No, instead I live my life in a way that I use my love towards others as a witness of who God is and what he has done in my life, and who he is making me into. You think I am a great person, but that is not because of me. That is because of God and because of people who have poured into me and helped me grow and mature in the Lord. It is because the Bible is my guide when it comes to how I act and live my life and how I treat others. I am not inherently a good person! I am naturally just as selfish and unloving and stubborn as anyone. But with God, I am a new person, and am constantly being remade to be a better and more Godly person.
I am sorry my dear friend if this came off as preaching or made you in any way angry. I just could not explain myself without explaining the basis for my entire worldview and life. Christianity is not just my religion. It’s not something I “practice” on Sunday’s for a few hours. No, instead being a Christian influences and makes up everything that I am. It is the core of my being, and holds my whole world together. Outside of it nothing makes sense and I would be a very lost person void of meaning.
I think that is all that I have to say. No, I will not change the way I act towards you. I love you. I forgive you. I will not forsake you. I will do everything in my power to show you what Semper Fidelis (always faithful) actually means my dear friend, simply because that is what God has done for me.
In Christ’s love,
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7