I just got back from a week in San Antonio, Texas for a LCMS National Youth Gathering. It was an awesome experience. There were over 25,000 students and adults there learning, growing, and worshiping Jesus. It was just amazing every single night to see everyone come together for the mass events at the Alomodome and just see and hear everyone worshiping our Lord and Savior. This year’s theme came from 1 John 4:9 and was called LiveLove[d]. Each night at the mass events we heard speakers talk on how we are “beLOVED”, that we are called God’s beloved children and that He loves us unconditionally. Tuesday night we dove into how we are “deLOVED” because of sin, that there is a barrier between us and God because of our sinfulness. Wenesday night we talked on how “LOVE lived”, that Jesus bore our sins on the cross and gave forgiveness for all of them. Thursday’s theme was “live LOVED” and just reminded us that we are no longer slaves to our sin and that Jesus did indeed redeem us from our unrighteousness! And finally, Friday morning, the last day of the event, we talked on how we are to “live LOVE”, that we can’t just keep the good news of the forgiveness of sin to ourselves, that we have to share it and how we are to love those in our lives just as Jesus loves us.
I’ll admit, throughout the week I was kind of distracted by everything. I didn’t pay much attention as I should have during the mass events. I was one of the adult leaders for my church on this trip and all together we had 70 some kids that we had to keep track of in the midst of the thousand others. My mind was on them a lot and making sure they were safe and accounted for. But that’s not to say that nothing that was said last week didn’t sink in. You see, I was really excited to learn that the theme for the gathering came from 1 John. It’s my favorite book of the Bible. I have studied it many, many times before, so I was familiar with John’s message. But even with familiar things you can learn something new, as I did. But it really didn’t hit me until the other day.
Taking all of the themes from the week, it all basically boils down to that I am a sinner just as everyone else. I am in great need of a Savior every single day. I HAVE a Savior that saved me from my sins even before I was born, before I had even done anything that would merit forgiveness (which there is nothing other than admitting I am in need of Him) and that He calls me to love and forgive those just as He did. Over the past year God has just repeatedly brought this back to my life, with a few people in particular. There is this girl for instance, whom she and I got off to a VERY bad start. Things were said and done by both of us that I don’t think neither of us are proud of. And I was angry with her for the longest time. It was hard for me to see her as anything other than the person who said and did all of those mean things just to bring me down. It was hard for me to forgive her when I never received any apology. And my anger turned to bitterness which turned into me holding a grudge on her for the longest time. It was something that she wasn’t even doing anymore and I still chose to act in such a way that made her out to be the same girl who was saying all those mean things still even though she wasn’t.
You see, I was telling myself a lie. That she was only worthy of forgiveness if she put down her pride and asked it of me. God kind of slapped me in the face for that. WHO WAS I TO SAY THAT?! It says in Romans 5:8 (NIV) that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We were still SINNERS! We didn’t ask for forgiveness before we sent Jesus to the cross, no! He died for us while we were still in our worst, most horrible state of being and I have the audacity as a sinful person myself, as prideful as I am, to say I’m not going to forgive a person until they ask me for it. That’s not love. That’s not grace. Waiting for the other person to seek forgiveness is the quickest way to spread unforgiveness! Forgiveness is about you, not the other person.
But it’s so easy to keep pointing the finger and say “didn’t you see what they did?”, “Did you not hear what they said about me?” Yeah, it’s true. They did a lot of things they shouldn’t have done. But so did I. And I am in need of a Savior who offers forgiveness just as much as they are. In John 20:23 (NIV) it says this “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” In Matthew 18:21-35 we read about the unmerciful servant who had his debts forgiven but refused to forgive the debts of another.It IS possible to love and forgive someone who is still at fault with you. God made this possible when He sent His Son on the cross for us while we were still depraved. 1 John 4:7-12, 16b, 19-21 says this
“7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
4:16 “God is love, andwhoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
4:19-21 “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. Loving people is hard, especially when there is strife between you. But loving that person will ALWAYS get you a better outcome. It may not affect the other person right away or at all, but choosing to love them despite what they had done WILL change you! Am I perfect at this? Of course not. Forgiveness is not just a “one and done” thing. I have to DAILY re-forgive her and myself for what happened. It’s probably time you let go of that grudge, no matter how big or how validated you are to be angry with them with what they did, holding onto a grudge is not worth as much as LETTING IT GO! There is so much freedom that comes when we learn to just let the past be past and live in what’s to come. We are called to be BELOVED children of God and we are called to love all those in our lives no matter what. Loving them unconditionally doesn’t mean to be a doormat and just excuse sin, it just means that we have to look past our human ways of looking at them and love them with God’s love. We must be a reflection of Christ’s love for us to a world that so desperately needs it