As a person who strongly believes in peaceful relations and loving others, I wouldn’t have guessed that a time would come in my walk, when I would decide to “cut off” someone I love. I hate negativity and consequently, disagreements. I don’t support malice and I don’t hold grudges. I’ve always been one to talk it out. You get the idea. But some time ago, after many disagreements, misunderstandings and hostility, I found myself at a place where I was bitter. Resentment had moved into my heart and I therefore made up my mind to be legally blind, deaf and dumb to this person. I somehow convinced myself that I wasn’t angry, and that I was just going to “love them from afar”. Can I tell you how much I was deceived? Flesh! I was overthinking, drawing conclusions, and casting judgments. My unsubmitted feelings led me to a bad place. Such anger I hadn’t felt in years! In fact, there were several times where I felt like I would “throw hands.” I’m not sounding so saved at this point, am I? For a while I didn’t realize how much control I had given the enemy over my mind and emotions. I was in a sinful state. Thankfully, one day while reading, “not a fan” by Kyle Idleman, God reminded me of the greatest challenge He gave to man. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” Luke 9:23. I made it all about me, and how I felt, and what I thought, when it should have been about the other person, and Jesus. While my feelings were legitimate, they shouldn’t have been first.
- the denial of one’s own interests and needs; self-sacrifice.
I love how that definition says ‘needs’ and not ‘wants’ because we are required to give up things that are necessary for life itself. We may literally be asked to sacrifice, food, shelter, and WiFi. This shouldn’t catch you by much surprise, but what if I told you that Christianity has always been about sacrifice? In fact it was birthed through the greatest act of self-sacrifice! I believe however, that somewhere along the way we lost sight of what our faith is truly about. It was never about you, nor I. It has always been about God and others. We cannot make claims to Christianity, without denying ourselves, and I don’t believe this is asking us to deny (sacrifice) something, but everything. Philippians 2:3 says we should count others more significant than ourselves. That is, your concerns, feelings, thoughts, needs, opinions and I could go on, should come second to that of others, or for the sake of others. It sounds almost impossible, but it’s not a sacrifice if it costs you nothing. The greatest part of this call to selflessness is love.
- “the highest form of love, charity; unconditional love”
If we ever forget what self-denial, or unconditional love looks like, we can simply reflect on the life of Jesus. He was hanging stretched from a cross, limbs and side pierced, thorns on his head, when He asked the father, not to send Angels to release him, but to forgive the very people responsible for his pain. He was more concerned about their souls, than his state. We don’t even have to go that far to understand what it means to love unconditionally. How many times have you sinned and broke his heart? How many times have forgiveness been granted to you? How many new books, not pages, have you started with God? In John 15:12 Jesus charged us to love one another as he has loved us. To all those who have buried people that are still alive, to all those who have been impatient with people’s process, to all of us who have been judgmental, grace is for everyone, and second chances are for everyone. It doesn’t matter how far in sin a person is, was, or how much they’ve wronged you, love. I promise you, you have hurt God far more than anybody could hurt you in a lifetime, yet His arms are still open to you. This is how we ought to love. Love is patient and kind. It does not envy, nor boast. It isn’t arrogant, rude, self-seeking nor irritable. IT KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGS. It doesn’t delight in evil, but the truth. It protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres, (1 Cor 13:4-7). How far off are you? Don’t feel pressured. This is not attainable overnight. Still, we should be deliberate in making sure that this is how we relate to others on a day to day basis. Let’s not forget the icing on the cake, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6: 27 & 32.
Being a Follower
- a person who moves or travels behind someone.
In the days of Jesus’ ministry, his followers (disciples) would literally leave everything behind and travel with Jesus. They were everywhere with Him. He was in all areas of their lives. They did what He said, when He said, how He said, almost like they weren’t their own. See what I did there? Though we don’t physically travel across borders with Jesus, this is the level of surrender He requires of us as followers. He purchased us from sin on Calvary; we are not our own. He requires our “yes” even when it goes against our future plans, desires and dreams. Following Christ means dying and having Him live through us. Sounds spooky huh? Those aren’t my words, they’re Paul’s, a true follower. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” Gal 2:20.
Following Christ means counting yourself as nothing, it means crucifying the flesh. Being a follower means total obedience, submission and having unconditional love. This isn’t a call to introspection, this is a call to action. 1 Cor 13 says if we speak in tongues, prophesy, have faith that can move mountains, give to the poor, but have not love, we would have gained nothing. Prophets, Evangelists, Teachers alike will wail on the day of judgement when they are turned away because they had not loved like they should have. It is easy to forget what’s required of us, but may we be quickly reminded, lest we live this life without seeing the promise. Following Christ is not for the faint of heart. It is easy to walk away, it is easy to cut people off, it is easy to lash out. Try something harder like denying yourself, loving unconditionally. and being a slave to Christ. I have accepted the challenge. What say you?