It Would Be Easier if We Didn’t Have to Love Our Enemy

My daughter was about 3-1/2 years old when she made this enemy.

After a week of summer dance camp, she declared that she absolutely did not want to take ballet in the fall.

Did she enjoy dance?


Did she have fun at the camp?


Did she want to try the dance classes?


End of story.  No explanation.  I plied her with Mom-questions.  She stuck to her decision without explanation.

In October, we sat together on one of the benches in the dance studio waiting room watching the tiny dancers file out after class.  We picked up my oldest daughter and headed out the door.1corinthians13, photo by Cora Miller

That’s when my girl said it: “I didn’t see Madelyn in the class.”

Madelyn?  Who are you talking about?

Then she exploded with the report that Madelyn always wanted to sit on the triangle at dance camp even when other kids wanted to sit on the triangle and she wouldn’t let anyone else sit there no matter what.

She sucked in one big breath, harumphed, and tossed her arms criss-cross around her chest while stomping her feet for effect..

Well, babe, Madelyn was in dance camp, but she isn’t in the regular dance class.

“Oh.”  Long pause while 3-1/2 year old process new information.

“Well, I want to take ballet then.”

All this time, territorial conflict with another preschool child had dominated her life choices.

Territorialism, jealousy, just plain old being annoyed with another person….it doesn’t get much easier handling all that mess as a grown-up.

We’ve all been there, forced into relationships with folks that drive us insane maybe with their negativity or pettiness or meanness, maybe insecurity, pride, constant bragging, insistence on arguing with everything you say, trying to compete with everything you do.

But I tell my girls this:

You don’t have to be best friends with mean kids, but you have to be kind and loving to everyone.

1 John 4:20 says it this way:

“If anyone says, ‘I love God’ yet hates his brother, is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom He has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

I quote it at my kids, but taking it to heart?  Practicing what I preach?  That’s a little harder.

Sometimes I want to edit the command, soften it a little, make it fit a little more comfortably instead of stepping on my toes.

Maybe:  “For anyone who does not love his brother….when his brother is a pretty nice person….cannot love God, but when his brother is annoying, a jerk, mean, or immature, then it’s fine not to love that guy.”

Of course, that’s not Jesus.

God is love, and Jesus showed that best by loving the unlovely, by loving the enemy.

So, I could pit myself against the ‘unlovable’ or I could choose Jesus and the discipline of kindness and sacrificial love.

It starts with prayer, but the temptation is there, too, to pray that God change them when what I need to pray is that God shows me His love for them.

Because maybe, just maybe, the person who needs changing is me.

Paul wrote this to the Thessalonian church:

 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NASB).

Love itself is part of the labor.

As Beth Moore says,

Sometimes loving comes easy.  Other times it nearly kills us (Children of the Day).

This is at work and it’s at church.  It’s with the annoying mom in the PTA and the gal who drives us crazy on the sidelines at soccer.

It’s in our own homes, too.

Sometimes love is hard.  It’s labor and toil and discipline to believe the best, to serve and feel like you’ve given all and then given some more.  It’s looking past imperfections and choosing to focus on the good and lovely and of good report (Philippians 4:8).

Love means choosing to give grace and forgive.  It means not keeping score and a list of wrongs.



….patient  (1 Corinthians 13).

I think of a favorite promise:

 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’s not finished with me yet and He won’t give up on me.  I cling to that.

Yet, here’s the challenge, too:  He hasn’t finished with others either.  He hasn’t given up on them.

So, maybe I need to give them the space and the grace to let God continue that work because, after all, He’s given that space and grace to me.

In June, I took time for friendship and learned that God uses others to bring me into His presence, sometimes in unexpected ways and sometimes through unexpected people.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Invest in Friendship’?


Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Living With the Tension

I sing to my children, “Jesus loves me, this is I know….” and “Jesus loves the little children.”

Jesus is love.  That’s the message in the melody.

I sing (more like chant): “God is so big, so strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do.”

And there it is, the lesson of God’s greatness, His majesty and power.

I sing again: “God is so good….God is so good….God is so good, He’s so good to me.”

His goodness, His grace, His might, His love.  I sing them as lessons, I read them on the pages of Bible storybooks and bedtime devotionals and my kids soak these in, the stepping stones of theology and doctrine.

Somehow kids can take all this in, the vast array of God’s character, the completeness of who He is, and accept it without conflict or contradiction or competition.

But we age so often into adult extremists, wanting to shove God into ill-fitting categories, taking stands along divisive theological battle-lines, innocently enough most of the time.  We don’t realize it usually.  Generations swing wide from one dangerous cliff to another, rarely achieving the balance, and we swing along with them.

We’re rarely comfortable with the tension implicit in God’s character.

But this is who God is: Perfect, living as the only One who can balance the holy tension between the extremes in this spiritual tug-of-war.  Labels don’t fit Him.  Our pat explanations don’t always work.  Our well-reasoned arguments fall short.

In our churches, we see this.  In our Christian books and our favorite pastors, we assume allegiances just like the early church declaring, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos” (1 Corinthians 3:4 NIV), more comfortable following humans than following our enigmatic God.

In the past, we proclaimed the importance of righteousness and living holy lives, digging ourselves into trenches of legalism and creating a Christianity more focused on moral expectations than salvation.

Now, we praise brokenness, moving past the healthiness of confession and vulnerable living, setting ourselves up all comfortable and cozy with sin–because we’re forgiven, after all.  And sin is sin and we’re already saved, so why bother reaching for holiness?

We used to drag people to the front of a sanctuary to say the sinner’s prayer and voila, pronounce them saved for all eternity.

But we’ve moved away from “cheap grace” without discipleship or fruit or revolution and now we’re “fruit” judges, examining people’s finances and the size of their homes and the cost of their shoes to determine if they’re radically committed enough to make it into heaven.

We preach messages of encouragement to one another, reminding burnt out, hard-working Christian servants that God loves us for who we are, not what we do.  We don’t need to perform for Him, don’t need to DO anything to earn His affection or merit forgiveness.

Then we tell them the church needs workers and salvation displays itself through service and how are you working for the Lord?

We categorize God into Old Testament ogre of divine retribution and New Testament Savior offering grace.

Which is God?  What is true?

Does God desire righteousness or brokenness?psalm108

Does He save us by grace alone or should our faith work itself out with fear and trembling?

Does God love us regardless of how we perform or does He want us to be working for Him?

Is God holy, just, big, good, and pure?  Or is He gracious, forgiving, all-loving, and compassionate?


Not either/or, one or the other, this or that.

But yes and amen.

God is perfectly able to inhabit this place of holy tension.

In our faith, we “become like little children” (Matthew 18:3 NIV), simply trusting Him, accepting the truths without turning them into combat zones.

Our God is holy and gracious, just and compassionate, saving us because of His grace and calling us to serve.

We return to Scripture and see that even in the Old Testament, God is characterized by grace.  He enacted a long-established plan to save us; it wasn’t an invention of the Gospel writers of the New Testament.

Because of His great love for His people Israel, He disciplined them with captivity.  Yes, even in discipline there is love.

Jeremiah the prophet declares:

“It will be a time of trouble for my people Israel. Yet in the end they will be saved!” (Jeremiah 30:7 NLT)

and he reminds them of God’s promise:

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3).

The prophet spoke of punishment and grace, captivity with the promise of freedom, destruction with the assurance of future restoration and hope.

Because this is who God is, this is His perfection, this His greatness that is beyond our capacity to understand—but that we worship.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Now Recruiting Team Members: Job #3, John

I clearly remember the first time my then future-husband, James, told me he loved me. He sat next to me on the couch, held my hand, looked deep into my eyes and said those three magic words.

I then walked to the bathroom and threw up.

Romantic, huh?

It’s partly because it wasn’t just some sweet nothing that people in a relationship say to each other when their hearts go pitter-patter.  We had decided when we started dating that James would be the one to say, “I love you” first and that he would say it when he felt confident I was the one he wanted to marry.

So, “I love you” really meant, “I’m committed to you and to our relationship.  This isn’t casual dating; it’s getting ready for marriage.”

Hence, my reaction.

Now, we’re just two days away from our 12th anniversary and “I love you” is something we say all the time.  In fact, I often stop and think about what I’ve just said or heard when we hang up the phone or kiss goodbye in the rush of the morning.  I want to make sure the significance isn’t lost in the banalities of life or the commonness of overuse.

I love you.

That means I’m committed to you and to us.  I care about you because of who you are and not what you do.  Whatever we’re facing in life, we’re doing this together.

We all need a reminder at times of what love really means because we take it for granted too often.  Or, perhaps, we need the reminder that we’re loved because sometimes we just don’t feel it’s true.

That’s why the last person I’d choose for my Spiritual Dream Team is someone who always reminds us of God’s love—the apostle John.

In Part One, I told you how we all need an encourager, a Barnabas to help us keep going and never quit.

In Part Two, I told you that we need an intercessor, a James, who will wear holes in his jeans from time on his knees praying for you.

We also need someone to remind us all the time that we are loved.  Fully, truly loved.  Known intimately, through and through, but loved just the same.  Loved so greatly that nothing we can do can alter God’s affection for us.  Passionately loved with such intensity that Jesus would die just for us.

Job Posting #3: John

  • Must remind us on the tough days and in the moments when we don’t feel it’s true that God loves us.
  • Must spur us on to love one another with more grace so we can be a living example of God’s love in the world.

John couldn’t forget that God loved him.  Jesus had chosen John for his inner circle of three intimate disciples.  At the Last Supper, John had actually leaned against Jesus.  He was the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13).  Jesus thought so highly of John, that He entrusted His mother into John’s care as He died on the cross (John 19:26-27).

It’s no surprise, then, that John’s primary message in his writings is that God loves us and that we should love others. 

God’s love was John’s consistent theme.  He wrote:

  • “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
  • “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
  • “God is love . . .  We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:16, 19).

God didn’t just love us; He loved us first and He loved us sacrificially.

In his book, 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart, Robert Morgan wrote about one of John’s most famous statements of all:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

According to Morgan, when the great evangelist D.L. Moody heard a fresh young preacher named Henry Moorehouse speak on John 3:16, he said,  “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much.  This heart of mine began to thaw out, and I could not keep back the tears.  It was like news from a far country.  I just drank it in” (p. 53).

We can’t take such extravagant love for granted.  We can’t depersonalize it and assume that although God loved the world, He doesn’t necessarily love us–you and me—personally and passionately.

We need someone to remind us during stress, fear, trial, and even in the midst of the mundane that God’s love for us never fails.

But John doesn’t stop there.  He says, God loves you . . .so, love one another.

It’s a natural progression.

We all have the opportunity to be the physical, tangible reminders of God’s love in a world starving for His affection.

John tells us: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

Yes, he says, “You who are loved, love others.”

How can you show God’s love to others today?

You can read more about this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King