Give It Up

“Finally, all of you should be in agreement, understanding each other, loving each other as family, being kind and humble. Do not do wrong to repay a wrong, and do not insult to repay an insult. But repay with a blessing, because you yourselves were called to do this so that you might receive a blessing.” 1 Peter 3: 8-9

This summer we’ve used the phrase “More Jesus, Less Me” a lot. Both the middle school kids in The Firm and the high school youth in 707 discussed this theme on their mission trips. We’ve discussed it at least twice in worship; it has shown up in several devotions online; and recently, it’s a topic I have been praying about.

I do most of my praying outside. I love to go for long walks early in the morning and pray. Maybe it’s the cool morning air or the sunrise or the quietness of daybreak, but it seems easier to hear God in the stillness of an early morning. The other day, I started thinking about this “More Jesus, Less Me” idea. I was thinking about it and I started wondering, do we really mean it? I mean I personally have been thinking about this verse for a little over a month, but I’m not sure I’ve really made any effort in my life to have “More Courage, Less Fear” or to focus “More on others, and Less on myself” or to show “More Love, and Less Ego.”

And that last one, Love vs. Ego, is perhaps the most difficult. Jesus’ greatest commandment to us is to “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Admittedly, this is hard. Especially after viewing the film The Passion of The Christ this summer, I don’t think I could go through what Christ went through for love. But, in order to truly have More Jesus, and Less Us, don’t you think we need to at least make more of an effort to uphold this commandment?

Love is a funny thing. There is a line from Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” that states: “Love is not a victory march/it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” Isn’t that true? Doesn’t it feel that there is nothing victorious about love? You might “love your neighbor” or “love your brother” or “love your spouse” but eventually that person hurts you. They wound you or betray you. And in reality, you probably do the same thing to them.

And when someone hurts you or betrays you, the pain is very real. It’s easy to feel manipulated, deceived, and worthless. It’s easy to act with feelings of anger and resentment.

Author and pastor Max Lucado says that “Resentment is the cocaine of emotions.” I think what he means is that anger becomes addicting. Once you become angered with someone it is easy to let it fester. Like an addiction you need more and more to fuel your feelings. You begin to find more reasons to be angry with someone and you find more ways to take it out on them. As Mr. Lucado says, “[you] unknowingly move further and further away from being able to forgive.” Like an addiction, you can’t give it up.

But I have to believe that God wants you to give it up.

If I were to ask you to think of someone you’ve been irritated with or mad at recently (or someone who hurt you or betrayed you) most of us could probably think of a name or two. I know I can. As I said before, the pain is real and easy to hold on to. It easily evokes that destructively angered response.

Earlier this week, I was thinking of these relationships in my own life. I was thinking of the people who’ve hurt me, as well as people I’ve hurt. And I realized that there is no room for Jesus in my life as long as I carry these hurt feelings with me. I can pray for “More Jesus, Less Me” all I want, but as long as I am burdened by these grudges I’m carrying, there is no “More Jesus.”

So, I think it’s time we make more of an effort to have “More Jesus, Less Us.” But in order to do this, we need to let go of our pain. We need to forgive and move on. We need to give it up so we can make more room for Jesus. At least, I know I need too. And it isn’t easy by any means. But it is necessary. As Jesus says in Mark 11:25, “if you are angry with someone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Now, I’m not going to be trite or naïve here and say “forgive and forget.” I’m not going to pretend that you can take three deep breaths and the pain will be gone. But I am going to encourage you to give it up.

The reality is, everyone comes to a relationship with their own baggage. But isn’t that what makes us human. We make mistakes. We screw up. Sometimes the consequences are big, sometimes they are small, but whenever they hurt someone, the pain they cause is very real. But even this pain is NEVER worth ruining a relationship over. After all, we serve a perfect, sinless God who is constantly hurt by us and our bad choices. Yet, he loves us and forgives us for the countless times we mess up. What gives us—sinful, broken humans—the right to hold a grudge?

Now the thing that makes forgiveness hard is that it isn’t logical. We, as simple, sinful humans, tend to favor an “eye for an eye” policy. We understand justice much more than we understand mercy. We prefer to forgive once someone has made up for what they’ve done or apologized. But that’s not love, that’s ego. And that’s not the way it works. We wouldn’t want a just God who forgave us after we’d paid a price or said the right words. We need—and we have—a merciful one; one who forgives unequivocally and without question.

How does one go about forgiving? I don’t know. Max Lucado believes that forgiving is a conscience decision you have to make. He says, “You can choose, like many, to chain yourself to your hurt… or you can choose, like some, to give up your hurt before it becomes hate.” I have to believe that if we pray that God will give us the strength to give it up, that he will help us to do so.

Prayer: Dear God. We are broken people. We come from a hurting world filled with so much pain, so much anger, and so much resentment. We become bitter and filled with self pity. We need your help to move on. We ask for your strength and your guidance. It’s hard to forgive, but we know that is what you call us to do. We need more of you God. More of your courage, more of your love, more of your healing touch. Be with us and take our pain. Take our anger. Take our resentment. Help us to become more understanding and fill us with your grace. We pray that we will have more of you in our lives, God, and less of ourselves getting in the way of who you created us to be. In your name we pray, Amen!

“God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So you should always do these things: show mercy, be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12-13.

Zach Herzog

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