The Capacity to Love 

To experience the love of someone who unconditionally loves and accepts you despite where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you is life transforming. To be loved in this way causes us to love in return. 

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

Luke 7:47 NLT

Too many Christians get saved and leave before they get loved. That is why so many Christians are narrow, critical, and judgmental. They should have stayed until they got loved. God doesn’t need you. He does fine without your help…He wants you to just let him love you for a while. When you have enough love to give to somebody else, he’ll send you back into the field. And one other thing: God mostly uses wounded healers. As painful as your sin is right now, it is the stuff that God will use to build a monument to his glory. Not only that, you will find great power in your wound.

Steve BrownApproaching God

What if we replaced this notion of our essential damage with a sense of our essential capacity to love… 

Sharon Salzberg, A Standing Meditation for Self-Care

A couple of days ago talking with my counselor, I realized how much I still view myself through the lens of someone who is damaged.  On the painful days, especially when the PTSD kicks in, this lie can feel as if it is suffocating my soul.  It can cause me to believe I have no capacity to do good because of my damage, and especially no capacity to love. 

If you’ve suffered any kind of abuse, especially sexual abuse or been involved in sexual sin, maybe this lie does the same thing to you.  

The only way I’ve found relief from the lies is in searching for the truth, and clinging to God’s redemptive plan despite the evil that has been done. What the enemy means for evil, the Lord will indeed bring good out of. He promises us over and over again in His word. I also believe that God does mostly use wounded healers, and that there is great power in our wounds.  It is my prayer that the acknowledgment of my own painful wounds will give you the same comfort I have found in other wounded healers who have not been afraid to share. 

But I think it’s also important to communicate that God’s redemption of our pain is not a pat answer to encourage us to avoid our pain. I see this happening too much in the church and a lot of damage is done by it. The nature of pain is that it points to something that needs our attention. 

In the Christian life, our pain can be the biggest driving force that brings us to Jesus, and I have discovered He is usually not a means of escaping the pain, but rather The Light that leads us through it towards hope. 

I think that one of the most painful things about the spiritual abuse was having my sinful part in the abusive cycle exposed and seeing the reactions of others to it.  Others who did not understand or believe that the spiritual abuse had occurred. Others who made light of it by calling it an affair. Others who said that I was not a victim. Others who made jokes, judged and criticized without ever speaking to me directly about what had occurred. Gossip does many times make it’s way back to those who are being gossipped about. Our words have the tremendous capacity to bring great good and do tremendous harm. The words spoken by others about me continue to haunt and revisit my mind on a regular basis. 

I know that I let the opinions of others effect me too much. I know that I am not defined by what other people think, but rather by who God says that I am. But there’s just something about my brain that causes me to get stuck in the opinions of others, and I have allowed these opinions many times  to cause me to view myself as damaged goods and incapable of being used by God to do good.  And more times than I wish I did, I see myself as someone who only brings out the worst in others.  

It’s the lie that first made it’s way into my life as an abused child. The one that said because bad things happened to me then I must be bad. 

If Satan can keep me believing this lie about myself, he can cripple me from accomplishing the good God has for me to do. He can keep me putting up walls and keeping others out. He can keep me believing that God will never use me again. 

But Satan is not in control, God is. And despite how many lies I hear about myself, God’s redemptive purpose for my life continues to bring light to the truth into my heart.  

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 NLT

God doesn’t stop working in our lives just because we sinned. As a matter of fact, God’s most powerful work in our lives begins when He exposes our sin and we experience His love. 

The story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus’s feet is told in every gospel account. God wanted to make sure that we heard her story.  Her sin was out in the open for everyone to see. There was no where to hide from their judgment. There was no where to escape the reality that she was damaged goods.  If she was a prostitute as many believe she was, she had probably been used and disposed of over and over again.  I imagine she’d lost all hope before Jesus came along. But when she heard about Jesus everything changed.

To experience the love of someone who unconditionally loves and accepts you despite where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you is life transforming. To be loved in this way causes us to love in return. 

And this woman gave everything of value that she had to love Jesus in return, because He was everything she had ever wanted in life. She didn’t have any goodness to cling to, and everything that she could lose she poured out onto Jesus’s feet in an act of extravagant worship and love.

The reaction of the religious people to a sinful woman washing Jesus’s feet reveals once again that things have not changed. They were appalled that Jesus would allow her to touch Him.They believed that God only associated with those who were clean. Therefore, they judged Jesus, too for even associating with her.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

Luke 7:39 NLT

On a side note, I’m saddened by how much I see this going on in our world. One thing that has changed about our world is how much information is accessible to us and how loud the judgments are about everything going on in our world. If social media and 24 hour news had been around in Jesus time, Simon the Pharisee might not have kept his thoughts to himself. He might have taken a picture and tweeted it to all of his friends. 

If he is a prophet of God, why would he let her do this? hashtag #notofgod

Simon’s friends may have retweeted his picture,  and the responses of Simon’s friend’s friends might have sparked a controversy to be fought in the comments section. Everyone would have an opinion. And if other’s didn’t agree with Simon’s opinion then some might assume that they were not of God either. 

But what does the judgment of this Pharisee reveal about his capacity to receive God’s love?  

Jesus did not fight out what He believed on social media. He just made sure that this woman’s story was told over and over again in scripture.  Whether people were willing to hear what He said about her love, in all likelihood would depend on whether they’d loved Jesus like she had.  Simon was still clinging to his own capacity for goodness and missed the truth of God’s redemptive plan.  But this woman knew she wasn’t good and clung to God’s goodness with all she had. And what resulted was gratitude, genuine worship and love. 

The power of other’s opinions that I allow to cripple me continue to reveal my humanness and desperate need for God’s love in my life. The lies that I struggle not to believe send me to Jesus over and over again so that He will remind me of the truth of who I really am. 

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:15‭-‬16 NLT

The power of other’s opinions, and the pain I have experienced as a result have also taught me the importance of showing compassion rather than judgment.  

The truth is I am not damaged goods because of my sin, and neither are you. We do not bring out the worst in other’s, but rather our brokenness drives us to kneel before Jesus and opens us up to receiving His love in ways others cannot. The more we receive His love, the greater our capacity to love God and others in return.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

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