Monday, May 02, 2011

Relentless Love I’m very excited to present my first guest blogger my sister, Rachel Miller. In light of recent world events, her post cut me to the core today. I wish I could take full credit for this, but it comes from a Bible study that a coworker graciously forwards to me each morning. I can’t tell you how many times this study has spoken directly to my heart on a given day, but today it was exceptionally striking given the fresh memory of Easter and the demise of Osama bin Laden. Two Rules to Live By (taken from Our Daily Bread – click here for full post. Read: Matthew 22:34-40) Have you ever felt overwhelmed by rules and expectations? Think of how the Jewish people must have felt as they tried to keep up with more than 600 rules from the Old Testament and many more that had been imposed on them by the religious leaders of their day. And imagine their surprise when Jesus simplified the pursuit of righteousness by narrowing the list down to just two-"love the Lord your God" (Matt. 22:37) and "love your neighbor as yourself" (v.39). In essence, Jesus is telling us that the way God knows we love Him is by how we treat people. All of them. Let's face it-loving our neighbor can be a challenge. But when we do it to express our love to God, we unleash a powerful motivation that loves whether the person deserves it or not. And as we love God and our neighbor, everything else falls into place. If I love my neighbor, I won't bear false witness against him, covet his wealth or his wife, or steal from him. Loving others for God's sake even provides the grace and strength to forgive those who have heaped injustices upon us.” [emphasis added] Wow. Timely, eh? It reminds me of a similar incident in America’s history not so long ago. December 13, 2003: Operation Red Dawn resulted in the capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. I was in college, doing whatever it is college kids do, and I remember hearing the news of the capture on the radio. Up until this point I had not given much thought to Saddam Hussein’s salvation. If anything, I assumed he was too far gone and destined for hell. But something powerful stirred within me the moment I heard he had been captured and taken into American custody. I immediately fell to my knees and prayed for Saddam Hussein’s soul. I BEGGED God to move someone close to him to share the good news of Jesus Christ as his Savior with him. I wept as I prayed that the Holy Spirit would enter his heart, and that he would accept eternal salvation in heaven with the Father. Yes, I am telling you that I prayed that Saddam Hussein would go to heaven. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed for anything in my life up until that point. On my knees. Face to the ground. Tears falling. In a word, it was weird. In a few words, it was bizzare but strangely right. After it was over I felt light as a feather, like a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I filed the experience away in the “someday it will be the right time to talk about this, but not today” file and went about my business. I wept again on December 30, 2006, when I learned that Saddam Hussein had been executed following his war crimes conviction. I cried because I didn’t know if my prayer was enough. There was certainly no evidence of reform during the circus that was his war crimes trial. What was the point of that prayer? Why did I feel so strongly compelled at the time to do such a seemingly useless act? Fast forward to today, May 2, 2011. After hearing about the death of Osama bin Laden and doing some research in the Bible to sort of piece together how I felt about it, the answer was revealed to me in the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy in Matthew 17:14-20. After Jesus rebuked the demon, his disciples asked him why they were not able to drive the demon out of the boy. Jesus replied in verse 20, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Some manuscripts of Matthew’s account include words similar to the end of the apostle Mark’s version of the same story (29:9): “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Call me crazy if you like, but I honestly believe that my tiny, mustard seed-sized prayer made a difference in Saddam Hussein’s eternal outcome through the grace of God. Ok, so now what? Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are dead, but as an American and a Christian I still have so many enemies in the world. How am I supposed to deal with that? Jesus gives the answer in His Sermon on the Mount: “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). Er, right. Did I mention that these people HATE ME!? As in HATE! As in abhor, detest, loathe, can’t stand, find insufferable, can’t bear, are repulsed by, and just plain dislike me! Why should I show them love and pray for them? Where is all that good “eye for an eye” stuff when you really need it!? The answer to the second question is simple: the “eye for an eye” way of thinking is one of the 600+ rules from the Old Testament and was rendered obsolete on the cross. Leave it there. The answer to the first question is in the closing verses of Matthew 5: “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). Plain English: If you love only the lovable and hate your enemies, you are no better than they are. Yeah, I know you didn’t fly airplanes into buildings and kill thousands of innocent people a decade ago. But God called us to be perfect like Him. This means loving the unlovable, and praying for their salvation. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us? The bible study from this morning closes with this: “Who needs to see God's love today through you? The more unlovable the person, the greater the statement about how much you love God! Loving God is the key to loving others. Couldn’t have said it better myself. When Rachel is not working her day job wielding her red tape machete or pushing beer-leavened baked goods on the side, she is home with her two boys ages 3 and 5 months eating homemade pizza and ice cream made by her culinary gifted husband, Kal. Rachel blogs with Kal over at Special Group Alpha (


Rachel said...

Thank you, Jen. I hope your readers like it. :-) LOVA!

Mom R said...

Love you. You children make me so grateful to God for all He has done in and through you.

Jennifer Powell said...

Love you too, Mom!