What do you do when you realize you have failed others, failed yourself and even failed God?
For several weeks now I’ve been working extra hard at “becoming love” toward the people God brings into my life. It’s not that I previously held a lot of unforgiveness and grudges against others. Quite the contrary! But recently some Christian giants whose lives I have observed from afar have taught me that there’s a huge difference between acting loving toward others, and actually becoming love; and it’s the latter that I strive for. One minister in particular often uses the phrase that his goal is to “love the hell out of people,” especially those who try to offend him. As I listened to several of his messages, and saw that the words, attitudes and actions aligned with the life of Jesus, I’ve tried to incorporate each into my own.
I thought I was doing quite well at dying to self and reconditioning my soul (my mind, my attitudes and my emotions) along this line – until this past weekend. A close family member who has endured several difficult trials recently, apparently has been stewing over a situation that occurred more than a year ago. Their view of what transpired was actually a misunderstanding of the facts. Yet that person brought it up to another family member who, in turn repeated it to me – and I over-reacted. I was properly defensive (in my own mind) as I righteously proclaimed, “I refuse to receive that condemnation,” then stormed off pouting to another room. And for several hours all my efforts at “becoming love” seemed to have been washed down the drain.
What’s important is that we not let failure define us
I repeat the query that I began with: What do you do when you realize you have failed others, failed yourself and even failed God?
Successfully “becoming love,” or for that matter dying to self and being raised up to take on any godly characteristic, is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. There will be times when you and I will lapse back into our former carnal nature. What’s important is to not let that failure define us. The apostle who did not think it too bold to call himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” declared under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “If we say that we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.”
God defines us and calls us His sons and daughters, in spite of our failures
Like all the other disciples of Jesus, John took off on the run away from the band of thugs that arrested Jesus in the Garden. He didn’t even exercise Peter’s misdirected courage by taking up a sword to defend his Master. Nor did he even follow Jesus from a distance to observe the trial. No – he just ran. Yet about 12 hours later John is found standing at the base of that bloody cross, a broken man, and accepting his Master’s request that he take His mother into his own house to care for her.
And what were the results of his returning to the Lord? Three days later he was included in the small group of disciples who witnessed the resurrected Jesus walk through the walls into that locked room and say “Peace be with you.” He was among the 120 in the upper room when the Holy Spirit visibly appeared as tongues of fire above their heads and gave them the boldness to preach and to minister. A few days later he was with Peter as they went up to pray in the Temple – and when they passed a man in the gate called Beautiful, they declared “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” and a miracle occurred.
And it was this same one who subsequently spoke more about the love of God than any of the other writers of Scripture, including these words from his first letter to the Church. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”
Return to God and seek His and others forgiveness
What do you do when you realize you have failed others, failed yourself and even failed God? You return to God. You ask His forgiveness. You forgive yourself. You turn to any and all whom you have hurt (even in the process of defending yourself) and ask their forgiveness. You do this not because you were more at fault than they, but because you are seeking to become love, and that’s what love does. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not selfish, and it cannot be made angry easily. Love does not remember wrongs done against it. Love is never happy when others do wrong, but it is always happy with the truth. Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits. Love will never end.
You thank God that He never abandoned you when you did things that were offensive and disgusting, times innumerable. You get back up and you try, try again.
God sees the perfected you – long before you are
And how will you know when you have become love? When you see everyone who does you wrong as the one who is in trouble (not you). When you see them (not you who has done no wrong) as the one who needs God’s compassion and forgiveness. When you can and do sincerely pray, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” When your focus is to “love the hell out of them.” That’s how you’ll know!