In an hour of solitude this morning I was praying for God to help me love someone who I’ve felt hurt by. This has been a wrestling for many months. Jesus teaches us, “Bless those who curse you… Give to those who ask of you… Be merciful [with others] just as your Father is merciful [with you]” (Luke 6:28, 30, 36).
Bless… Give… Be merciful… But I feel disrespected and wounded. I’m struggling with resentment. It’s like I’m sinking into a stormy sea!
I get trapped in the tensions between forgiveness and boundaries, speaking the truth and waiting on God, self-care and generosity. It’s like I’m under the water and seaweed is wrapping around me!
O Father, I need your mercy! Jesus, help me! I’m not able to love well. I can’t even breathe, let alone bless others, without your love.
At that moment, although I felt like I was drowning, I was actually in a large grassy field, basking in the sunshine. I took a deep breath of heaven’s air…
A Fresh Meditation on 1 Corinthians 13
Then God led me to meditate on 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter of the Bible. (What a treasure store we have in our minds when we memorize this!) So I offered to him my relationship with this person and began filling my mind with God’s inspired words on love. I reminded myself, I can’t be patient, kind… slow to anger… always trusting… Love does this.
I prayed, Lord Jesus Christ, you are love. Live freely and fully in me. Re-form me more into your image by your Spirit of grace so that your love shines out of my body to this person. Amen.
Loving shining out of my body! That’s it! I need better “epidermal responses,” as Dallas Willard says in The Divine Conspiracy. I need for the love of Christ, his Spirit, to master my self, permeate my body, and radiate from me to the people around me.
So I returned to meditating on 1 Corinthians 13 with a view toward this relationship. Again I let God’s Word live in me, phrase-by-phrase, word-by-word, but this time I replaced the word “love” with “Christ shining out of my body.” This protected me from feeling guilty, pressured, or hopeless. God isn’t asking me to produce greater love — he’s offering to love me and to love this person through me.
Making Christ Our All in All
My sole focus is to enthrall my mind with Christ, the perfect embodiment of love, so that his Spirit takes greater and greater possession of me, all of me, even my body, and flows through me to others.
Who are you having trouble loving well? What relationship is causing you tension, hurt, or resentment? Usually when we have a difficult or painful relationship it’s with a friend or family member, someone we most want to love and be loved by. We especially need Christ to be our “all in all” in these relationships (Col. 3:11).
I wrote a one page “Lectio Divina Guide” (currently we have fifty of these on our website) to go with this devotional and to help you and your small group to grow in the love of Christ. It includes my paraphrase of the Love Chapter, a Breath Prayer, and a few key thoughts and questions. Here it is: “Love is Christ Shining Out of My Body.”