Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Trust Issue

I'll be honest here... I keep a lot of my enemy issues private. I started this blog, hoping to encourage others with the same issues and give myself a little accountability. But each time I post on my other blog and I see the listing for this one, I think of the things I want to post, and then realize that I am so not ready to let others see the vileness of inhumanity lurking inside me.

Or I start a post and then start thinking about how imperfect it is and how something so bad can't possibly benefit anyone.

Today, I started working through a Bible Study on Sanctification. It was part of a discipleship group I worked with for a while back when baby #1 was born. We never did that lesson, so today, I started working through it on my own.

Here's the conundrum of sanctification: while we are already sanctified, that is, set apart for the work God created us for, we are still being sanctified, and made more Christlike as God fulfills His purpose in us. Now, I don't pretend to understand it all yet, so please don't email me with your scriptural/theological arguments. Let's be honest here. Frankly, I don't understand most of that sort of thing. Here's what I do understand.

In Romans 7:15-24, Paul talks about his struggle with sin. I've read this passage dozens of times. Today, when I read it, I saw an important distinction I'd never made before. Paul defines himself separately from his sin. His sin is not who he is. And only God can deliver him from his sin.

Why do I think that's any different for anyone else? Why do I think I can suddenly jump up, and force myself, by virtue of my own willpower, to love someone I very clearly hate?

More importantly, why am I defining others by their sin? Why am I holding them to impossible standards that not even Paul can attain? Why do I accept the sin of others and love them and withhold it from those whose sin hurts me? Do they not both sin? If I hold one to a particular standard, why do I not hold all?

I admit, I'm particularly hard on fellow believers. When they sin against me, I am filled with an anger that burns with a fury that knows no bounds. I struggle with forgiving them. They're Christians. They should know better.

Am I free from sin? Am I so perfect that I can hold my head upright, completely blameless in all I do? No. I cannot even claim to be as good as Paul, who writes with such passion about his hatred of his own sin.

The truth is, as I examine my reasons for my feelings toward my enemies, it has a lot less to do with their sin than it has to do with mine. In not loving my enemies, I commit a greater sin than anything they could have possibly done. First, because I am disobeying a commandment to love my enemies. More importantly, though, I am not trusting God.

I hate my enemies because I desire to see justice. I want vengeance. And I do not see it happening. Where is the Lord? Why is He not smacking down these evildoers? I try to rush the process with my hate because I cannot see what He is doing in these people's hearts. While I can understand that there is a process of sanctification happening inside of me, I don't allow for that process in others. I can understand the struggle between wanting to do the right thing and sin, and yet, I do not trust that process in others.

When I say that I cannot love my enemies, I am saying that I do not trust God. I'm not trusting Him to work it out. I'm not trusting that as these evil things come out of hearts, that He is taking it and purifying it. I'm not trusting that as He is conforming me to His very image, He is conforming them. When I don't let out my issues with loving my enemies, I'm not putting them out there for Him to work on. I'm hiding it all behind the workmanship of my own hands, something that will never succeed in bringing me closer to God.

In trying to hide my feelings for my enemies, in trying to pretend everything's okay, I have leaned far too much on my own understanding, and failed to trust God in a work that only He can do.

So today, I pray that you will be unafraid to let your sin hang out. While it's not okay to hate our enemies, it's also not okay to hide it, push it down, and pretend it's not there. God will work on it. Maybe not in the timing you think, or in the way you think. But trust Him. Just as He is working the sanctification process in you, He's doing the same with your enemies.