When Lives are At Stake
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 NIV)
Point Pelee's Lifesaving station in Ontario, Canada was established in 1901 as a result of the numerous lives and vessels lost to this peninsula. With its many shoals and reefs, it is most certainly a sailor's nightmare.
On November 22, 1906, the Conemaugh, a wooden steamer, lost all control in the Pelee passage. It hit the shoals with such a force that most of the blades of the propeller were broken off by the impact. The crew was in dire panic.
The team of seven at the nearby lifesaving station set out immediately to the rescue. Their task wasn't easy however, and it was made even harder by the tumultuous waves that constantly invaded their tiny boat. Once they were finally near enough to the Conemaugh, the crew went about the task of rescuing the crew.
One thing they didn't do, however, was try to pick and choose who would be saved. Imagine if they had said something like this: "Oh, here is Joe, my neighbour. A real pest of a man! I don't think there is room for him in my boat. Good riddance!" But no such thought ever entered their heads. Rather, they made three trips, risking their lives each time, so that anyone on board of the Conemaugh could be brought safely ashore.
Would we have done the same? I'm speaking to those of us who have experienced God's love in our lives! Why is it that we have no trouble loving God, but when it comes to loving our fellow mankind, we are left wanting? So often we end up pondering how it is possible to truly love others. After all, we have been burned so many times, and these wounds continue to haunt us every step of the way.
How can we love like Jesus does? Is it even humanly possible?
Immediately we are reminded that "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold..." (Matt 24:12 NIV) It is completely normal, given the evil in this world, to hesitate to love. Nevertheless, this Bible text continues "…but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt 24:13 NIV). Those of us who do not let wickedness influence us in our love for others are the ones who stand firm!
We were destined to love! No wonder the evil one tries to thwart God's plans by every means possible! Will we let him? It all depends whether or not we are "standing firm".
How can we stand firm?
1. "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (1. Matt 5:44-45 NIV)
Praying earnestly for those we dislike will heal any hurts we have received. God will fill our spirit with His love, replacing all bitterness and unforgiveness. If God lets the sun shine on those we consider wicked, why should we be exempted from doing the same? Aren't we the sons and daughters of the Most High? Aren't we to follow His example?
2. Luke goes even deeper: "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:27- 37 NIV)
We should not only pray for our enemies, but we are urged by Jesus Himself to also do the following:
a. Love them, which occurs, by the way, when we pray for them;
b. Do good to them. If they need help, let's not hesitate to come to their rescue;
c. Replace their curses with our blessings. It's hard to stay enemies with someone who loves you from the depths of their heart;
d. Lend to them without expecting to get anything back. This is a common source of friction. "What did you do with my lawnmower? I need it and I need it now!"; and especially:
e. Forgive them instead of condemning them.
In other words, instead of avoiding those we don't like, let's try to follow Jesus' command: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." With such a divine purpose, not only will we eliminate the source of all strife, but we will be leading these people we consider enemies to the very doorsteps of heaven. It is a beautiful thing when two enemies reconcile with one another. They become friends for eternity!
3. All of these will fill us with adrenaline to love, love and love.
"Do everything in love." (1 Cor 16:14 NIV)
"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." (1 Cor 8:1 NIV)
"Love each other as I have loved you." (John 15:12 NIV)
As long as we build up our enemies, we will be following Jesus' example. Gone will be the criticism, the talking behind the back, the putdowns. We will begin to fully comprehend God's love towards all of mankind.
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (1 John 4:7-9 NIV)
4. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (4. Luke 23:34 NIV)
Most importantly we should try to identify with our enemy in order to understand where he or she is coming from. This would lay a strong foundation where love and forgiveness will blossom to life. Were we even aware that "our enemy" was struggling and that adversity had stormed into their lives? It sure makes sense why they are acting that way!
Loving others is truly a decision from the heart. If we want to make an impact, love is the only way. Standing firm is only possible if we stand in love. Fear evaporates in front of love (See 1 John 4:18). It also decimates discouragement and worthlessness.
Are we ready to love?
"I wonder if I should save my neighbour after all. Maybe he would let me borrow his tractor now!"
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