@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I've been hurt a lot.
There've been times when people have questioned my motives, character, and decision making. Times when people have made me feel beaten down and left me discouraged.
In each of these instances, I've had a decision to make. I could stay down and out, or I could pick myself up and love my enemy well.
While I'm the last one to say that I've done everything right, there is one clear lesson I have learned through it all:
Sometimes, all our enemy needs is a friend.
A friend is there when someone is hurting. A friend is there to share his or her heart and perspective. A friend listens, goes for walks, and loves another through tough circumstances. A friend actively blesses when it can be so easy to passively curse another.
This all takes intentional action. It seeks to give rather than to get. Being a friend is hard, but doing the hard thing is what shapes, forms, and molds us into the best person we can be. As we continue to walk in the ways of Jesus, we're empowered to share love, live a life free of enemies, and be victorious in all of life's circumstances.
Here are a few ways in which love actively blesses in various situations.
1. ...when it's difficult.
There have been numerous times when I started a new workout routine full of all the excitement and adrenaline in the world. That first workout is always exciting. The endorphins begin to fire. And by the end of it, I'm so jacked that I make a giant protein shake and post a picture on Instagram. Nothing will get in my way this time, I tell myself...
Then I wake up the next day.
My body aches. My muscles cramp. I convince myself that I need a day to recover. However, even after a day of rest, the pain is still there. I'm still hurting. I try to reason that one more day off would only help me go after it again...
The reality is that when we face pain of various types, we can easily make an excuse for why we need to rest. Why we need to take a break. Why we should go back to doing the very thing that hurt us.
Our relationships are much like a workout. We're excited about them in the very beginning. Nothing will stop us. But then we get hurt.
Our friend lets us down.
We discover that our spouse is not perfect.
We realize our kids aren't the top in their class.
We get hurt.
Words, actions, and even inaction knocks us over. They leave us wounded and hurting.
The easy response is to retreat. To avoid going back for more hurt.
However, like with workout, growth in our relationships doesn't happen unless we work through the pain.
In writing to those in Rome, Paul says:
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them" (Romans 12:14).
2. ...in all circumstances toward all people.
Paul gives us a really big challenge.
He writes, "Live in harmony with one another. Don't be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all!"*
This is a big challenge in and of itself. We see how Jesus constantly traveled with, ate with, and associated with the "ordinary people" while the religious elite would comment negatively about it.
In the same way, Paul challenges us to remain humble—to associate with all people. However, he doesn't leave it there. He doesn't tell us to merely enjoy the company of ordinary people. He expands upon that.
"If possible, as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."**
He challenges us to live at peace with all people!
In order to have peace, we cannot have disunity in our relationships. We cannot view others as enemies. We instead need to see our enemies as friends.
In order to do this, we must resolve to live without enemies. Sure, people may have their problems with us. We can't control what someone else is thinking. But we can control how we act, respond, and think.
When we no longer live with enemies, but see everyone as friends—or we at least seek peace with everyone—our life becomes a whole lot more peaceful. Grudges, resentments, and anger no longer hold us back. Then joy, blessing, and encouragement move us forward.
3. ...through doing good to all.
Paul writes, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."***
The way to overcoming the "evil" in our lives is to out love him or her. I remember the day when I was a young boy and my dad was trying to make me more into a man.
He wanted me to stand up for myself. He wanted me to be strong. So he would say, "Son, don't let them bully you. Fight back. Stand your ground. Don't be pushed around."
While I understood his manly advice, I've realized that fighting back only leads to a bigger fight. Instead, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. To bless rather than to curse. To hand out love when we so easily want to bring the fist of justice.
How do we overcome our enemy? We out-love him or her.
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink."****
At the root of every bully is a deep need for something. Often, people lash out or hurt us out of their own pains, struggles, and insecurities. They push us down so they can feel bigger, taller, and stronger.
Yet they're still left with an emptiness that needs to be filled. They're still hungry or thirsty. So what are we to do? We're called to feed him or her. We're to offer him or her a drink.
We are called to actively seek to give out a blessing—even when it is hard. Because at the end of the day...
Sometimes, all our enemy needs is a friend.
Who is an "enemy" in your life?
How can you bless him or her this week?
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I remember the day that I celebrated my grandparents' 50 years of marriage. At the time, I didn't even know what it meant to be alive for a quarter of a century or even to have a girlfriend for much longer than a year for that matter. Yet, I looked at their years together—the legacy they had already left and the love in which they shared—with both joy and a hope to also have that type of love one day.
As I've grown older, gotten married, and had kids of my own, I've appreciated their journey all the more. I've come to realize how love is not some feeling of continual ectasy, but a commitment through all of the highs and lows of life. Through the joys and the sorrow.
Love takes commitment. Here are some things to note in how we can love well for the long-haul.
1. check your motivation.
Why we do something is so much more important than what we do. Just recently, we celebrated Valentine's Day. For the longest of time, I rebelled against this special day. I referred to it as the "Hallmark holiday." I even justified why my girlfriend, fiancé, and then wife didn't need me to get her anything. In fact, it was the day that I would say, "Love is an everyday thing, not just a holiday type of love." I really did love her 364 days out of the year— I just rebelled against that one day.
Yet my motivation was not pure. I let my arrogance and pride get in the way of showing my wife a 365-day type of love.
In sharing about what love is, Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
"Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude."*
When it comes to why we love, the questions become: Why do we love? Is it out of obligation? Is it so we can boast? Do we do (or not do) something because of our own arrogant desires?
Loving well for the long haul begins with the right motivation.
2. challenge your focus.
Where we put the focus of our relationship matters.
At first, I always saw having a girlfriend and eventually a wife as a benefit to me. The motives were based on my desires, longings, and wants. However, what I realized is how much I was focused on myself through it all.
I love my wife best when I take the focus off of myself and place it on her. Rather than insisting on my own way or desire, I find it more enjoyable to listen to her ways and desires. It may mean putting that basketball game on record and watching it later so we can enjoy a movie or date night together. It may mean letting work stay at work so I can be fully present at home. When I get overwhelmed and focused on all that I want, I no longer am focused on my wife.
Loving well for the long haul means focusing less on ourselves and more on the other.
"It [love] does not insist on it's own way; it is not irritable or resentful."**
3. converse honestly.
I've heard it be said, "A little white lie never hurt anyone."
This is so far from the truth.
From small to big lies, they all directly impact our relationships. Lies never lead to anything beneficial, and they're always discovered. They always tear down trust and never build it up.
There is a famous proverb that says, "Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed."***
If we are to have healthy relationships, then we should speak openly and honestly. Telling the truth can be hard. In fact, it may leave us feeling like we'll be rejected. However, every time we tell the truth, we continue to build trust rather than tear it down. The sting of what we have to say may hurt, but the truth behind it builds trust and credibility.
We often lie because we want to make ourselves look better. We believe the lie that, if we hold back from sharing the truth, then the other person won't see our flaws. They may even think of us as better than we know we are. Yet, as the proverb reminds us, lies are soon exposed.
A relationship that is built on lies will not last.
"It [love] does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth."****
4. commit to the journey.
Have you ever been traveling somewhere and then suddenly made a wrong turn? Maybe you were in the middle of a new place and suddenly became lost. At that moment, you are committed. You are on the journey, and there is no easy way to just turn around and go back.
In our relationships, our commitment is much the same way. We are committed. We are on the journey, and at times we may get lost. Hardship will come, struggles will happen, arguments will take place.
It is in the hard times that we are able to show our true commitment. We are able to embrace the situation and get through it together. We may need to stop and ask for directions. We may need to reprogram the GPS. We may need to reset our bearings. No matter what we have to do, we must commit to being in it together.
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."*****
The ultimate expression of love is Jesus Christ himself. He came and sacrificed everything so that we may have everything. However, he did not come and take away our sickness, pain, and hardship in this life. He did not come to wipe away the agonies of this world—at least not yet. However, he promised to be with us forever.
When we face a terminal diagnosis, Jesus is with us.
When we are struck with anxiety and fear, Jesus is with us.
When we have hardship and pain, Jesus is with us.
He never promises to free us from the pain, but he promises to be with us through it.
Our relationships should reflect that same type of commitment. We cannot take away the pain, sickness, anxiety, or hardship of another person. However, we can journey through it with them.
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
As we began a new series on relationships between men and women, news was released on the very same day out of the Houston Chronicle. This specific, three-part piece highlighted the allegations and convictions of pastors, church leaders, and volunteers within the Southern Baptist Convention churches. It showed how, in just 20 years, these leaders caused over 700 people to be victims of sexual abuse.
When I read this, my heart sunk to the ground. One quote from the article put it this way:
"One victim of sexual abuse said he can't forgive leaders who offered prayers but took no action. 'That is the greatest tragedy of all,' he said. 'So many people's faith is murdered. I mean, their faith is slaughtered by these predators.'"
While we can theologically debate his statement, the reality is that many people turn away from Jesus or don't even give him a chance because of how the church is so often represented by its leaders.
A people who is called to be salt and light to the earth instead seems to destroy and bring darkness into the lives of others.
So, how are we to respond as followers of Jesus? How are we to show light? How can we prevent ourselves from being the next ones in the news for bad rather than good?
I would like to suggest a few ideas:
1. acknowledge the battle.
No one is exempt from having a battle within themselves. In fact, we all face struggles each and every day. Often times, we find ourselves even doing the very things we thought we never would.
We may catch ourselves in a little white lie or even a situation we would have never imagined happening. Whether we are in a big or small struggle, the reality is that we all face battles daily. We do both small and large things that we know in our hearts are wrong.
Paul, a famous early follower of Jesus, wasn't even exempt from this. In fact, in writing to the Christians in Rome, he recognized this very struggle within himself.
"I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate." (Romans 7:15 NLT)
This battle is one we can all relate to. Caught up doing the very thing we wished we didn't. Our battle may not make the news headlines or even be one that turns heads, but it's still a struggle. It's one that, if it festers too long or grows too big, will lead to even greater consequences.
Paul later explains where this battle comes from. He says a couple of verses later:
"And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway." (Romans 7:18-19 NLT)
Here lies one of the important truths to being a follower of Jesus: we must first recognize that we have an inherently sinful nature. While this is hard to want to accept, it shows our need for a savior, someone to make us right.
Jesus is the one who makes us right.
Paul even says this in the very same chapter:
"Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 7:24-25 NLT)
2. address your thoughts.
In 2 Samuel 13:1-22, we find a very dark story in the Bible. We are told of a man named Amnon who sexually assaults his sister Tamar. What began as a desperate way to show his love for her quickly turned into a hatred toward her.
In fact, he even told his friend, "I am in love with Tamar" (2 Samuel 13:4). After the horrific rape, the following verse says, "Then suddenly Amnon's love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he loved her" (2 Samuel 13:15)
What changed? What caused Amnon to—out of "love"—rape his sister and then throw her out? What he thought would have one conclusion ends with him being killed by Tamar's brother just two years later.
Every action has a consequence. And every action first starts with a thought.
Amnon was lovestruck so much by Tamar that he was like a high school teenager who had his first crush. He couldn't even get out of bed because of how much Tamar was on his mind.
It was his thoughts that dominated him. They led him to get advice from a friend which then led to his infamous plan.
While from our perspective his plan was a horrible act, he did not see it that way at the time.
Often, our thoughts can become so cloudy that we come up with some pretty dark plans. Those plans lead to horrible actions which have terrible consequences.
Throughout the story, we see how this formula really impacts our lives and ultimately feeds the consequences we face.
THOUGHTS → ACTIONS → CONSEQUENCES
3. apply some boundaries.
Jesus recognized this problem that we all face. During his famous "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5, he addresses the sin of adultery. What I find most interesting is that he calls out the thought, not even the actual physical and visible action.
"But I say to you, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28 NLT
It is our thoughts that can be the real battle.
We can easily justify our thoughts, as well as what we put into them.
"Watching this video will only enhance my marriage."
"This show or movie is just that—a show or movie. It won't impact what I do."
"This video game is no big deal."
"It was just a thought. I don't have to worry about it."
We often find ourselves justifying our thoughts. We make them okay. Yet, Jesus makes it clear that they aren't. What we think about influences what we do.
That is why boundaries are so important.
In fact, Jesus says, "If your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away."
While he is using a strong illustration, the point is so critical for us. If something we are watching is causing us to think sinful thoughts, cut it out.
If the environment we are in is making us battle with temptations that we know would be harmful to give into, cut the environment out.
What we think about really influences our behaviors.
If we want to truly help shine the light of Jesus into this world—if we want to be the salt that Jesus calls us to be to the earth—then we must fill ourselves with things that reflect Christ while cutting out the things that darken our thinking and cloud our minds.
What is one thing that is holding you back or clouding your thoughts? Cut it out of your life today. Right now.