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Chapter 11. Divorce and Prejudice and Agape Love
In dealing with it in my own life, I realized how important it is for a Christian to deal with hardness of heart.
Step 1: Realize the importance of compassion
We must approach everything we do from the direction of compassion. When dealing with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus first showed compassion by telling her He didn’t condemn her, then judgment when He told her to sin no more. God is a God of compassion first, then judgment. When seeing others, we must have compassion for their behavior since before we were saved, we too were slaves to sin and/or circumstances. It is so hard to have compassion towards the fast-food worker, for example, who is rude or not helpful. Yet we don’t know what they are going through. I am concerned that the church has gotten away from compassion. We need times in God’s presence asking Him to reveal areas of hardness of heart and replace them with a compassionate heart. The mission of the church is to proclaim the Truth, but with compassion. We must do both or else it is very unbalanced to do only one. Compassion is the sign that we are obeying God’s command to love. Seems like the only group Jesus did not have compassion for were the Pharisees, the very group that should have known the most about the need for compassion, and yet had the least of it. This is an important lesson for us as believers, who should have the most compassion of all. You must have compassion. It is too much a part of God’s heart.
Step 2: Realize the destructiveness of hardness of heart
I believe hardness of heart is a major cause of divorce and prejudice. Hardness of heart happens when our thinking is wrong about a person, often a spouse or child, or a group, often those who think differently or look different from us. I’m convinced the only answer is rhema words for how to change our thinking. It doesn’t mean overlooking things that need to be addressed, but it does mean addressing the hardness. Hardness of heart is one of the things that often raised God’s righteous anger in the Old Testament. You do not want to let hardness of heart be in any area of your life. God’s rhema words will show how to look at a situation with compassion and what you personally are to do about that situation. You know you have succeeded when you feel love, not hardness, towards that person or group. (I believe the same approach applies to a crushed spirit (heart). Like hardness, a crushed spirit is a condition of the heart that must be addressed with rhema words of guidance.) God searches our heart to see if we have hardness of heart and if we are doing anything about it. [TOOL] A good starting point to eliminating hardness of heart is “recognize and refuse.” We are so in the habit of entertaining hardness of heart that it almost seems natural. Instead we must recognize it and refuse it, until that is our natural response. Then we can let God speak His rhema words that will show the next step.
You may still have to get a divorce since the will of the other person is involved. Ditto for whether a broken relation with a child can be restored. You should never have prejudice towards others since that should be eliminated whether others respond well or not.
So get to a place where you have compassion for all, and rhema words washing through your mind. That brings hope to marriages and an end to prejudice.
Many, many books and articles have been written on agape love, and I have not researched it to any such degree, but I sense that it has similarities to the kind of faith I have described in this booklet. Plus it touches on some of the other topics in this booklet, so I thought I would present some of my ideas on the subject.
-Is based on God’s nature. 1 John 4:8 says God is love (agape). So, like faith, the more you know of His nature, the more you can walk in agape love.
-Is a free will choice that you can walk away from at any point. In Revelation, Jesus told the Church at Ephesus that they had left their first love (agape).
-Is sacrificial, i.e., it will cost you. This is perhaps its most distinct characteristic. It cost God putting His son on the Cross. It cost Jesus going to the Cross. “For God so loved (agape) the world, that He gave…”
-Knowing God's nature conquers fear because God is agape love, and "perfect love (agape) casts out fear." I used to think that verse meant I had to have perfect love but now I believe it means that we are to meditate on God's nature until we realize He is perfect love and that it is by Him and His power that we can cast out fear. [TOOL] Let the truth of the previous sentence set you free from all your fears.
Agape love will cost you putting aside your will (deny yourself), every day (daily take up your cross), and doing God’s will instead (follow Me). If you don’t think that is hard, then I propose you have not faced a situation that requires agape love…but you will. Or you are unwilling to let yourself be yielded to it. A simple test is to determine what is coming out of your heart: love or hardness. I talked about hardness of heart earlier in this chapter. If you think about the movies or TV shows or books that most touched your heart, I would bet that many of them revolved around sacrificial love, like a soldier giving his life to save his fellow soldiers in a war. They all play on the greatest sacrifice of all, Jesus, which is why they affect us so. This is agape love. [TOOL] Every day and multiple times during the day tell God and Jesus that you choose to love them. Choose to love anyone you don't feel love for. Agape love really is a choice more than a feeling, a choice based on knowing God’s nature. Ask for a deeper understanding of agape love and His nature. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any hardness of heart in you. Work to get it out.
Addendum: When the highly disturbing George Floyd incident occurred, I examined myself and asked God to speak to me. Here is the sum, so far, of what I feel God showed me: we can be captives of this world's systems without even knowing it. I believe slavery is one of those systems. And while America no longer allows slavery, its impact is still present. Unless we have acknowledged that we have been affected and infected by slavery, which is sin, then God cannot set us free from it like He wants to. I feel each Christian must go before God and ask Him to reveal any sin, any captivity, any strongholds that are still present. This doesn’t mean we need to accept things like “white supremacy,” “entitlement,” “reparations,” or whatever. While they may have an element of truth, they are man’s opinions. But by confessing to God, we are set free to hear what He would have us to do.
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:8-9
Four acknowledgements that I feel each Christian should make regarding racism:
1. I acknowledge that my forefathers (not to be confused with Founding Fathers) set up a system of slavery in America that promoted racism and is still affecting me and the church today;
2. While terms like “reparations” and “white entitlement” were coined by man and not God, I acknowledge that there is an element of truth in them and that I am willing to put significant effort and resources into recommendations of CHRISTIAN churches and organizations most affected by racism;
3. I acknowledge that the following statement should be the basis for my actions: Every person should have the right and opportunity to discover, develop, and use the giftings they were born with, and to realize that they came from the God of the Bible;
4. I acknowledge that Christians should be at the vanguard of addressing racism and social injustice in America, and that God is giving me an opportunity and responsibility to be in that vanguard, as He directs.
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