Loving the Difficult Like Jesus Did

Hello Calvary Wolfeboro and Friends,

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “You can’t drive out darkness with darkness. Only light can do that. You can’t drive out hatred with hatred. Only love can do that.” This past weekend we looked at the beginning of Jesus’ suffering under the heavy hand of hatred. It’s impossible for most, if not all of us, to understand what the scourging that Jesus endured felt like. Our present world has confined this kind of torture to dark places out of the sight of the public. Of course, there will always be the ISIS-like groups in the world, but their behavior is considered deviant and is unacceptable even to the calloused heart of secular humanism. Modern man may be okay with the murder of the unborn en masse, but we don’t tolerate torture of the sort for which Rome was well-known. His scourging, along with the crown of thorns pressed into his skull and the mocking cries, were only phase one of two in the excruciating death of our Savior. All his suffering, a demonstration of God’s immense love for us. It is this love, ultimately, that produced Jesus’ suffering. It was His love that conquered the hatred of the cross. Nothing else can explain how the cross - an implement of death and torture - became the symbol of love and forgiveness.

We all know it’s impossible for us to love exactly like Jesus does. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t love in similar ways; that we can’t move in His direction when it comes to loving others. We, too, can be willing to suffer for the sake of demonstrating God’s love. We, too, like Jesus, can remain silent in the face of false accusation and slander. We, too, can seek a steadfast commitment to the people God wants to love through us. This we CAN do. In other words, we can do our best.

Who are the most difficult people for you to love like Jesus does?

Who are the most difficult people for you to love like Jesus does? We all have those individuals or groups that immediately come to mind. If you think you don’t have them, you’ve probably deceived yourself. We all have them. Maybe you only see them on TV or the internet. They don’t necessarily live next door, but they might. Of course, we need to love all people. Paul tells us, however,  we are to be especially diligent in loving the people of the Church. There are always going to be other sheep that we have a difficult time loving like Jesus. Typically, it’s the most self-centered people who are the hardest to love. The ones (unlike us of course - sarcasm intended to be obvious) who only think about themselves. The ones who never ask how you’re doing, but are always quite willing to talk about themselves. The ones who never learned to live by the old axiom: You have two ears and one mouth, use them accordingly. I’m going to go out on a limb right now because I have personal experience in this department. Teenagers are among the hardest. How do I know? It’s not just because I have one (almost two). It’s because I was one.

When I think about how difficult I was to love like Jesus, I cringe. I was so full of myself, I really thought I could figure it all out on my own. Whatever I didn’t know, I certainly didn’t want anyone else’s help to figure it out. There I was, not caring about anybody but myself. It seems like I would have been a hard son for my mom to love. In very real ways I made her suffer. I never hurt her physically, but I certainly hurt her with my words. In so many ways my mom was a great example of how loving someone causes suffering. Every parent knows it’s true. And every parent knows sometimes silence is the only good option. We can’t always defend our decisions. We shouldn’t always defend ourselves. Perhaps we shouldn’t ever.

Parenting teenagers isn’t the only place where our struggle to love like Jesus exists. For you, it might be easy to love teenagers. Perhaps your struggle is elsewhere. I pray you will take the example of Jesus wherever it’s needed around you and love.  For now, however, I want to keep our focus on the teens.

So why am I focusing on teenagers? I certainly don’t want any of them to read this and be “triggered” (sarcasm once again intended). I know not all teens are the same. Stereotypes don’t always fit. I’m saying this because the general reality about teenagers - that they’re in what is typically the most selfish time of their lives - makes ministering to them difficult.

This weekend our own Anchored Youth teenagers will be heading up to Loon Mountain Resort for a retreat. I’m so excited about what God will do. I am praying for huge breakthroughs in the hearts of this next generation, whose natural selfishness has been fueled by media like no generation before. The key? Loving them like Jesus. That’s a tall order. It’s why we must pray for all the leaders who will head up to Lincoln with our students. Pray, especially, for Ben Mangum as he serves Anchored Youth in the role of shepherd. He and his wife, Amber, have been plowing the hard ground of teenage hearts for two and a half years and the fruit is starting to be evident.

Beyond this weekend, I encourage everyone in our church to think about how they can be a part of loving our teens with God’s love. Right down main street Wolfeboro there is Kingswood middle and high schools. About a thousand students gather daily throughout the school year and the vast majority of them don’t even know who Jesus is. Brewster Academy has another few hundred. Begin praying now about what God would have you do to be a part of reaching into those lives with the Gospel. Think maybe you should get directly involved with Anchored Youth? Email Ben and he will help you get the process started.

Imagine what would happen in our region if revival came through the youth. This is our heritage as Calvary Chapel. The Holy Spirit came down on southern California and it was the youth who poured into the church. My pastor, Skip, was one of them. What could God do through one of the students in our town? Only God knows, but I want to find out!

For His Glory,

Pastor Justin