He Reigns!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Practice Love

Romans 12:17-21(ESV)
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

It seems to be human nature to want to lash out at those who hurt us. If someone cuts us off while driving, we want express our feelings, and usually in a negative way. If someone yells, we yell back. If our spouse gets mad, we get mad back. We repay in kind, yet that is not how the Bible teaches us to respond.

In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I fought a lot. We are both control freaks, me moreso because I had raised children as a single mom, ran my own business, and I took care of everything as both mom and dad. My husband had never married or lived with another person, and had no children. He was a bachelor who did things his way, when he wanted, how he wanted and answered to no one.

We butted heads regularly. If I got mad, he went ballistic. If he got mad, I felt guilty. Our arguments were epic, and within two years, we were considering divorce. We loved one another but we could not communicate rationally. It wasn't looking good to say the least.

I didn't want a divorce and I only knew one thing to do - pray like never before. I cried out to God to show me how to deal with this man, but also, how to treat him and how to react differently. I couldn't change him but I could change me. I prayed that God would give me the same kind of love for my husband that Christ had for me. That all-encompassing, all-forgiving, Agape love of God toward my husband. And I asked God to give me joy in loving him, and joy in our marriage, and joy no matter what. I also prayed - God, please show me how to deal with this man before I kill him!

You know the saying "bite your tongue"? I literally bit my tongue every time I wanted to repay his words or actions in kind. I took a breath and remembered my prayer. I silently reminded God of my prayers and that I needed an answer now! God answered those desperate prayers in a way that I didn't expect.

He gave me laughter. Every time I was about to jump into the fight, I laughed. I couldn't help it. And it was laughter that bubbled up from deep inside me and I couldn't stop it. The first time it happened, my husband looked at me like I'd lost my mind. Then he got offended and left. When he returned, he was in a better mood. Every time afterwards, when he got mad, I laughed. Loudly! And then a strange thing began to happen, the anger in me disappeared (who can be mad and laugh?) but it also began to lessen in my husband. His fits became fewer and farther in between. And when he did get mad and I laughed, he began to laugh too!

Years later he asked me why I started laughing at him and I told him I wasn't laughing at him, I was filled with laughter from God. I told him about the prayer I'd prayed when I was at my wit's end and how God had answered me. I was filled with laughter but it came from the overwhelming love Christ had for me and had filled me with for my husband. We celebrated 17 years of marriage recently, and I'm still laughing.

How we relate to people is a choice. How we respond to people is a choice. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are choosing to act like Him. That goes against our sin nature, and it definitely goes against the way people today deal with one another. When we react in a godly way, it "heaps coals of fire" on the individual, but not literally of course. In ancient Egypt a person guilty of a crime carried a tray of hot coals on their heads to show repentance, so when we treat people as today's verses say, it will bring about repentance in them. Repentance means change, and change can save much more than just a marriage.