Sometimes it's easier to love people we don't know rather than to love brothers and sisters and family members we do know who may have hurt or offended us. Having come from a large family, six brothers and a sister, mom and dad, it's not hard to imagine that there might have been some discord from time to time or hurt feelings along life’s way.
Did I say discord? I meant battles. Hand-to-hand combat was more like it resulting in stitches, hospital visits, broken bones, betrayal, disillusionment, and angry, hurtful words that tear down instead of building up.
But I can't say I love God and love my neighbor, but “hate” my family, my brother or sister, or parents, or maybe even a brother or sister in Christ… I might even be justified for feeling bitter and holding a grudge. It helps me feel better; or does it? No. It doesn't. Unforgiveness is fertile ground for a harvest of darkness and destruction.
God says to love. It's a command. So how do I love the unlovely? How can we let go of unforgiveness, pain, offense, hatred, resentment and the bitterness that can take up residence in our mind and heart?
Confess to God. Ask for his help. Let it go. Let God do what only he can do. Allow him to give you the strength and power to do what we may think is impossible. Choose to forgive as you have been forgiven. Forgiveness is a process; it doesn’t happen instantly.
As the Lord brings to remembrance family members or people who you may have mixed feelings about, talk to him about it. We can get stuck in our walk with God when we stubbornly refuse to listen to his promptings to forgive. Keep growing in God!
I can truly say with all my heart, I love God. I love people. I love my family. Where there have been family fractures and disappointments over the years, God has brought healing to every one of those relationships when I chose to forgive or asked to be forgiven and asked God for his intervention in the situation. May God bless as we continue to walk with him in love and forgiveness.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates his brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command, anyone who loves God must love their brother and sister.
1 John 4:20-21
Rev. Peggy Locke is assisting minister at Reno Hillside Foursquare Church, specialized chaplain, co-founding pastor of Carson City Foursquare Church.