Have you ever been hurt to such a degree that you act and make decisions without considering the possible results or outcome? Many people, amazingly even Christians, have fallen into such predicaments. I recently met a young lady who found herself in such a situation. As I made my way down the hillside on the way home, I saw a young woman walking toward the main road and offered her a ride. We began chatting in the car and she told me she was on her way to the local Catholic Church. As it was the Sabbath day, I had expected her to say she was going to a Seventh-day Adventist Church, and we began to talk about the difference between the two religions. As the conversation progressed I learned that she had, at one time, been a Seventh-day Adventist but had renounced Adventism after a disappointment suffered at the hands of the church where she had been a member. Her grandmother had become sick and no one from the church where she was a member, and regular attendee, made the effort to go and visit her. As she related the story to me, I could see the hurt still reflected in her teary eyes and I could hear the pain and disappointment in her voice! This had been the turning point in her life, and as a result, she explained, her Sabbath was now Sunday, and she felt happy and accepted by her Catholic church family.
What Cecile experienced transcended pain, it was caused by a lack of Christ’s divine love on the part of her church, and as a consequence of their behavior she responded out of the depth of her hurt. She had chosen the path of alienation, separation and rejection in response to what she had received.
It is a human response to withhold our love and shut ourselves away from those who hurt us, when instead, we should base our behavior on that of our Lord Jesus. He, our example in all things, never withheld his affection and love even from those who offended or hurt him.
“To love as Christ loved means to manifest unselfishness at all times and in all places, by kind words and pleasant looks. These cost those who give them nothing, but they leave behind a fragrance that surrounds the soul. The effect can never be estimated. Not only are they a blessing to the receiver, but to the giver; for they react upon him. Genuine love is a precious attribute of heavenly origin, which increases in fragrance in proportion as it is dispensed to others.” Letters to Young Lovers, 16.
“Christ’s love is deep and earnest, flowing like an irrepressible stream to all who will accept it. There is no selfishness in His love. In this heaven-born love is an abiding principle in the heart, it will make itself known, not only to those we hold most dear in sacred relationship, but to all with whom we come in contact. It will lead us to bestow little acts of attention, to make concessions, to perform deeds of kindness, to speak tender, true, encouraging words. It will lead us to sympathize with those whose hearts hunger for sympathy.” Ibid., 17.
While we should not needlessly expose ourselves to danger, at the same time we should not withhold our love from our enemies or from those who hurt us. We must remember that it is divine to continue giving of ourselves and our love to those who have hurt us. To love as Christ loved, this is our challenge as Christians and as a church. In the words of William Penn, Founder of the State of Pennsylvania, we are reminded that, “Love is the hardest lesson in Christianity but, for that reason, it should be most our care to learn it.” The New Dictionary of Thought, 375.
We may direct our minds to Him who has suffered more hurt than any mortal has or will ever suffer, for “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” Isaiah 53:5. The Bible shows that “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” John 1:11. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3. Incredibly, in spite of the hurt, wounds, pain, tears, rejection and lack of love that we as humans demonstrate to Jesus, our beloved Savior continues to remind us, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3.
It is no wonder George Matheson, the hymn writer, exclaimed, “O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.” It is no wonder Horatius Bonar penned these words, “O love of God, How strong and true! Eternal and yet ever new, uncomprehended and unbought, beyond all knowledge and all thought. O love of God, how deep and great, far deeper than man’s deepest hate; self-fed, self-kindled like the light, changeless, eternal, infinite. We read Thee best in Him who came to bear for us the cross of shame; sent by the Father from on high, our life to live, our death to die.”
Compared to the love God has shown us, our profession of Christianity and love for each other can only ever be a superficial and shallow representation. We must have Christ’s love reflected in us in order to share the hope of salvation with the world.
The Vulnerability of Love
True godly love is vulnerable and is always seeking for restoration and reconciliation. Yet, through the words of the English poet Martin Tupper, it can be seen that in spite of its vulnerability, “Love is the weapon which Omnipotence reserved to conquer rebel man when all the rest had failed. … There is not one human in a million, nor a thousand men in all earth’s huge quintillion whose clay heart is hardened against love.” Even while suffering on the cross Jesus demonstrated his Godly love and forgiveness in His prayer to His Father asking Him to forgive those who had bitterly hurt Him. He never stopped loving. He was able to continue loving in the face of hostility and antagonism because the love which he possessed, and which we as Christians should possess, is not earthly nor human, but God’s divine love shining through us. Human love is conditional, but the love of God survives in the face of rejection and allows us to continue loving even those who hurt us. “Love is of God. The unconverted heart cannot originate nor produce this plant of heavenly growth, which lives and flourishes only where Christ reigns.” Testimonies, vol 2, 135.
It is easy, as Christians, to use the excuse of having been hurt so badly and so often and draw into ourselves and forget about people as a way of dealing with challenges, instead of taking the example of Christ. Did Jesus stop loving those who had hurt him? The apostle Paul answers, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.” Romans 13:8. He further counsels, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21. The Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Antonius said, “It is the duty of men to love even those who injure them.” The New Dictionary of Thought, 375. Through the example Jesus gave us through His life on earth, we are shown that all men are entitled to our love, even those who are not our friends and those who hurt us.
Christ’s Principles of Love
We can examine two important aspects of Christlike love from the perspective of Jesus’ life. He suffered the most painful and humiliating treatment that could be inflicted on a human, and in spite of it all He was able to love His tormenters. In the first place His love builds a wall that surrounds the soul, and secondly His love has a healing power.
When we let the wall of Christ’s love surround our soul, it protects us from human pain and gives us the power to love and forgive those who hurt us. Speaking of this divine love, the wise man declares, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” Song of Solomon 2:4. From the pen of inspiration we read that, “The souls of those who love Jesus will be surrounded with a pure, fragrant atmosphere.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, 34.
Ellen White also tells us, “The activity of Satan’s army, the danger that surrounds the human soul, calls for the energies of every worker. But no compulsion shall be exercised. Man’s depravity is to be met by the love, the patience, the long-suffering of God.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 237. The love of God which surrounds the soul forms a bulwark, a defense which neutralizes Satan’s negative elements that bombard the soul, thus allowing us to find peace in Christ. “Everyone who truly loves God will have the spirit of Christ and a fervent love for his brethren. The more a person’s heart is in communion with God, and the more his affections are centered in Christ, the less will he be disturbed by the roughness and hardships he meets in this life.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 483, 484. This was the love that Christ lived and demonstrated in His time on earth. His divine love preserves the soul through the storms and crises that may arise on our spiritual journey, giving us the strength to face negative people and situations. It surrounds the soul as a wall of protection against human pain and damage allowing us to love the offender and pray as Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. When this divine principle is implemented in our lives, it is impossible to seek revenge because it is a love that neutralizes every ugly, evil, and satanic thing which threatens the soul. Ellen White tells us, “The heart in which love rules will not be filled with passion or revenge, by injuries which pride and self-love would deem unbearable.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 168, 169. When we learn to love as Christ loved, we are strengthened through Him and able to respond with love to those whose hurtful deeds attack us in the Devil’s attempt at discouragement.
Love’s healing power kept Christ in health of body, mind and spirit even though, “There was never one who walked among men more cruelly slandered than the Son of man. He was derided and mocked because of His unswerving obedience to the principles of God’s holy law. They hated Him without a cause. Yet He stood calmly before His enemies, declaring that reproach is a part of the Christian’s legacy, counseling His followers how to meet the arrows of malice, bidding them not to faint under persecution.
While slander may blacken the reputation, it cannot stain the character. That is in God’s keeping. So long as we do not consent to sin, there is no power, whether human or satanic, that can bring a stain upon the soul. A man whose heart is stayed upon God is just the same in the hour of his most afflicting trials and most discouraging surroundings as when he was in prosperity, when the light and favor of God seemed to be upon him. His words, his motives, his actions, may be misrepresented and falsified, but he does not mind it, because he has greater interests at stake. Like Moses, he endures as ‘seeing him who is invisible.’ ” Reflecting Christ, 366.
Divine love has the power to preserve and heal the one who possesses it, and this is how Christ was preserved in spite of all the hurt and rejection he sustained while on earth. He was daily vitalized by this plant of heavenly origin by being in constant connection with His Father—the source of true love. Ellen White says, “Only the love that flows from the heart of Christ can heal. Only he in whom that love flows, even as the sap in the tree or the blood in the body, can restore the wounded soul.
“Love’s agencies have wonderful power, for they are divine. The soft answer that ‘turneth away wrath,’ the love that ‘suffereth long, and is kind,’ the charity that ‘covereth a multitude of sins’ (Proverbs 15:1; I Corinthians 13:4, R.V.; I Peter 4:8, R.V.)—would we learn the lesson, with what power for healing would our lives be gifted! How life would be transformed, and the earth become a very likeness and foretaste of heaven!” Education, 114.
God shows us that as we connect ourselves to him through surrender to Jesus Christ, we are endowed with divine love—the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This divine principle preserves and heals us from the evils that encompass our soul, keeping us focused on His love, and in turn allowing us to love even our enemies. This love towards our enemies and those who have hurt us also provides healing for them in the way David says: “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3. “The law of the Lord [is] perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 19:7. “The word employed, (converting) Meshibah, (Psalm 19:7) is used of restoring from disorder and decay, from sorrow and affliction, from death. The Law, by instructing men, restores them from moral blindness to the light which is theirs by nature, and, as a further consequence, in many cases, restores them from sin to righteousness.” Pulpit Commentary, vol. 8, 129.
When asked which of the commandments was the greatest, the Savior clearly showed us that the foundation of the law is love, saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37–40. Jesus also states in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” In the keeping of the commandments we connect to a continual supply of the medicine of God’s divine love.
In the words of Ellen White, “When the gospel is received in its purity and power, it is a cure for the maladies that originated in sin. The Sun of Righteousness arises, ‘with healing in His wings.’ Malachi 4:2. Not all this world bestows can heal a broken heart, or impart peace of mind, or remove care, or banish disease. Fame, genius, talent—all are powerless to gladden the sorrowful heart or to restore the wasted life. The life of God in the soul is man’s only hope.
“The love which Christ diffuses through the whole being is a vitalizing power. Every vital part—the brain, the heart, the nerves—it touches with healing. By it the highest energies of the being are roused to activity. It frees the soul from the guilt and sorrow, the anxiety and care, that crush the life forces. With it come serenity and composure. It implants in the soul, joy that nothing earthly can destroy,—joy in the Holy Spirit,—health-giving, life-giving joy.” Ministry of Healing, 115. Christ was constantly healed by the power of God’s love and when we surrender fully and completely to him, we too will receive the vitalizing energy that can heal us from the buffeting of man and demons.
The principle of forgiveness is embedded in divine love and is fully exemplified by God the Father and Jesus Christ. God made a covenant with humanity in order to forgive us—the offenders. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. This covenant of forgiveness is possible only through divine love. No human being can ever, or will ever, forgive another human being without having first experienced the love of God. If we have not fully surrendered to Christ in acceptance of the love He offers, we are not able to follow His example and forgive those who have hurt or offended us. Jesus says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13:34. Consequently, what we see displayed by the brethren in church, at home, and at work is love controlled by our human limits; a love that flourishes until one is hurt and then changes into resentment, anger and bitterness. Divine love is a wall that protects us from the toxic elements of sin so that they cannot harm the soul and makes forgiveness a joy and a delight. “Love is the fruit that is borne on the Christian tree, the fruit that is as the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 187.
This love protects the soul no matter how deep the wound, and prevents us from displaying unchristlike qualities. As human beings it is to be expected that we sometimes feel pain and sadness, yet by demonstrating the love of Christ through tribulation, we become divine agents for positive spiritual change in the lives of fellow human beings. The Holy Spirit supervises this process of transformation, thus establishing reconciliation between man and God, as well as between man and man.
A New Commandment
In His words to the disciples Jesus says to us, “A new commandment I give unto you.” John 13:34. “Why was this called ‘a new commandment’? The disciples had not loved one another as Christ had loved them. They had not yet seen the fullness of the love that He was to reveal in man’s behalf. They were yet to see Him dying on the cross for their sins. Through His life and death they were to receive a new conception of love. The command to ‘love one another’ was to gain a new meaning in the light of His self-sacrifice. In the light shining from the cross of Calvary they were to read the meaning of the words, ‘As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.’ ” The Review and Herald, June 30, 1910.
In conclusion we read the words of the disciple, John,
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein 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 ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” I John 4:7–12.
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-822-3900.