Loving someone you don’t even like is even harder than it sounds. Especially when they seem to persist in directing their imperfectness directly at you. A friend of mine refers to people like that as EGP’s (Extra Grace Person). We all need grace, but some people tip that scale and need extra grace! Lately, I’ve had a number of EGP’s show up in my life but one in particular is seriously sharpening some iron on me. About the time I think I’ve got my flesh crucified, my attitude like Jesus and my mind focused I step right into a landmine of judgmentalness or self-righteousness or just plain old irritation and impatience. I keep looking for someone to show me the best way to get through the minefield but I’ve realized there is really no good way to get through it; it’s just one moment of self-crucifixion after another.
I don’t like confrontation. I do it all wrong. I guess that is exactly why God has placed this particular EGP in my life. Recently it took me 20 minutes to get control of my flesh before I could respond appropriately to something thrown my way. It was a text conversation so I was able to take the time. (I considered 20 minutes a victory since too many times it has taken me days to deal with my flesh!)
Unfortunately, having time to figure it all out isn’t always the case. Face to face situations require a different way of dealing with “self.” I have found a silent prayer of “Lord, have mercy!” (a literal prayer, not a figure of speech) is typically how I start. Unfortunately, I usually just have to bite my tongue because my emotions take over and what I really want to do and say would not be considered Christian-like, much less an act of faith. I have way too many moments of thinking of the best thing to say or the best way to handle a situation…about an hour too late.
Who would have thought that learning to bite my tongue (or my thumbs!) would be an act of faith? Refusing, in that irritating moment, to panic and say or do something I would regret. The way of love is a lot harder than it sounds.
Jesus understood how hard this would be for us and yet He tells it straight up, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48. I don’t know about you, but I can feel the sweat running down my face. This is hard training and honestly, I’d really rather be focusing on some other area of “Christianness” about now. However, God has me focused right here; turning up the faith in ways I never would have imagined.
Thankfully, Jesus provided a way for imperfect people like me to actually live life according to Matthew 5:43-48. It’s a supernatural thing to come before God in prayer and by an act of my will, submit my way to Him, choose to commit to His way and literally feel the shift in my soul and spirit. The peace that comes with that is truly beyond my understanding. It works because of God’s extra grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. My only work is to genuinely submit my will to His. (Easier said than done, I know!) The fact that I have to do this moment by moment some days is just a testimony of my own imperfectness. How can I judge my EGP when I’m just as imperfect? So moment by moment I have to make the choice to refuse to panic, lay down my feelings, opinions, “rights”, and whatever else my EGP stirs up in me, and only by the power of the Holy Spirit pick up the way of Matthew 5:43-48. When I don’t make that crucial choice, life can be torture; but when I do, life is an amazing journey.