Leonardo Da Vinci, just before he started work on his “Last Supper” had a violent argument with a fellow painter. Leonardo was so bitter that he determined to paint the face of his enemy, the other artist, into the face of Judas, and thus take his revenge by handing the man down in infamy and scorn to succeeding generations. The face of Judas was, therefore, one of the first he finished. And everyone could easily recognize it as the face of the painter with whom he had fought with.
But when he came to paint the face of Christ, he could make no progress. Something seemed to be baffling him, holding him back, frustrating his best efforts. Finally he came to the conclusion that the thing that was frustrating him was that he had painted the face of his enemy onto the face of Judas. He painted out the face of Judas and was then able to resume his work on the face of Jesus and this time did it with the success that the ages have acclaimed.
Sometimes negative feelings can hold us back from where we desire to be in life. Like Leonardo, maybe it’s the spirit of revenge… or perhaps it’s anger, jealousy, or spitefulness. God’s plan for our lives doesn’t revolve around any of these. In fact, those reactions that we feel entitled to actually get in the way of our obedience toward Him… and His blessing on our lives. God has a much better idea…
“‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” Matthew 22:36-40
The second part of the verse unlocks a clue as to how to be obedient. Loving others. This is not a suggestion or an option. If we are Christ-followers we are told to love those that He has placed around us. Friends… enemies… those that encourage AND those that tear us down. Not an easy task… but one that we must figure out to be obedient. How do we do that? How can we love those that we don’t even like?
1) Recognize that our lack of love for them is sin. Confess it… and ask for God to remind us of how He loves us (even in our broken and sinful condition). We tend to expect God’s love but struggle to pass it along to others.
2) Choose not to be controlled by feelings. You can’t force yourself to feel love… but you can CHOOSE to love in spite of the negative feelings. It’s will over want. (Matt. 5:43-44)
3) Trust God to help you love them. What we cannot do ourselves… the Holy Spirit can do within us. God’s word says to do it… so it can’t be impossible. We can count on God to provide the strength and will we’ll need to love even the most unloveable.
4) Pray for them… not that they’ll change… but that God would help you see them differently. Pray for their success…that they would grow and thrive… that God would bless them. He may not change them but the exercise will DEFINITELY change you.
Today’s devotional is the type that many will dismiss as impossible. Or unfair. It just doesn’t seem right to have to love someone who treats us poorly or gives us no love in return. But remember, God’s thoughts are not like ours (Isaiah 55:8). He died for the world. Everyone. Not just the nice… or the semi-perfect… or the put together… He sacrificed Himself for everyone. There will be people in this world that you might not like to be around… but they can be loved because they are His creation too. God loves them just as much as He loves you.
Spend a few minutes and take some inventory. Are there people you have labelled as unloveable? Pray for them today. Not that God would change them… but that He would give you some fresh insight… a renewed heart… a different way of seeing the world. Your life will never be the same. When we obediently love God and love His creation… we are blessed… and we take steps toward our God potential.