Loving and Hating What God Loves and Hates
Loving and Hating What God Loves and Hates
Isaiah 61:8 "For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing."
Our Father’s love is immeasurably deep, enduringly high and surpasses the farthest star. His passion for us in Jesus is truly without end and everlasting. Much of our lives, after He saves us, is spent on the task of learning about this tender act of grace bestowed on us. We were far from a genuine desire to know Him; now, we understand our fellowship with Him is a present reality because He chose to draw us to Himself. The early days in our fresh walk with Him are marked by intense service and vigorous devotion in the form of a spiritual honeymoon. But the experience is a flame that tends to fade over time and the hard work of sanctification, that process where God molds us into the image of Christ, begins.
This spiritual development can be exquisitely excruciating. In my life, I lacked real supportive discipleship after I went forward one Sunday morning to receive Jesus as my God and Savior. While it is definitely not a requirement, I wish my eyes were open wider to the transformation that was about to occur in the entirety of my being. Jesus was going to honor His word and take me off to heaven someday. First, I had to be used to finish His work here on earth. This wouldn’t happen until my old stubborn habits were crucified. Fears and godless attitudes, buried under mountains of ignorance needed to be exposed and let go. I had to learn about this God. I spent a large part of my life, into my early teens, in church every Sunday but never heard an emphasis on the love of God to me. John 3:16 was a cute memory verse pertaining to a God far away with a Son helping me out somehow in the distant past. But He wasn’t here, now. God was on a throne, and I had to fend for myself the best that I could, never able to please Him. I had no idea how to make the word of God practical and effective in my life.
In my early days walking with Him, I was suicidal, depressed and generally useless for the kingdom. I lost an incredible amount of weight. Alcohol and drugs were established strongholds in my life with deep deep roots. These roots included generational curses, racism, religion, family issues and more. I had also played in the enemy’s camp, and he was not thrilled that I was leaving. There was a lot of momentum invested in a life without God. I was making a long 180-degree arc that would take some 30 years to complete. There are plenty of stories about the individual who received Christ and were loyal to Him the very next day. That is not my experience. I was subjected to extreme disillusionment. The process was much like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. It is the scene where he is betrayed by a few of his allies. With an arrow in his chest, he captures what he believes to be an enemy only to reveal it is the very prince/king he is fighting for. It turned out that I was the enemy when I ripped off the helmet. None of what I considered to be a benefit for the kingdom was fit to lay at the feet of Jesus. Every possibility to trust myself for righteous living had to be eliminated. Everything that made up my personal interests had to come under the control of Jesus before I was ever to hope in a life that meant something for the kingdom.
One story is appropriate here. I wouldn’t leave drugs alone – even though life was holding out a ministry, beautiful fiancé and a future filled with hope. All these things are well in reach for the mature Christian, but I was a babe under the illusion that I had control over my life. Fortunately, there are consequences to that wayward behavior; otherwise, I would have continued on and been destined for hell. God used the closing doors and the need for special care to position me for a closer walk with Him in a few decades. This dark period of disillusionment brought me to the brink of wanting to take my own life. The pinnacle of my crisis came when I was on a bridge over an expressway in Philadelphia and gave serious thought to jumping. I was close to making that decision to jump when God pulled me from my plan to end it all and take a breather. It just made no sense to me why all the willpower in the world could not keep me from these gross shortcomings and losing the love and fellowship of close friends. I heard no voice, only a feeling that there was more to do.
His love reached me in two ways on that bridge that day. Those early years, after coming forward to say the sinner’s prayer, I went in and out of shelters and spent time on the streets of Philadelphia. I had learned how to survive on the benevolence of churches and missions. I rarely went hungry. I learned to sleep anywhere due to where my addiction would drive me that day. But I hung around Center City the most.
After God changed my mind about jumping off that bridge, I saw a van in the distance. The logo on the side of the van was a raven with a loaf of bread in its talon. The van was from Raven’s Ministries, and it was just what I needed after that ordeal on the bridge. There was a short message and prayer, followed by sandwiches and soup. I sat down in a nearby ornate park and cried out to God in personal loathsome despair. I have no doubt that God was watching over me my entire life. However, this self-revolting response to the food and the word was because I knew that God put those people there. They were God’s hand of ministry at one of my lowest points in life. Like Elijah, God knew I needed refreshment after so great a battle with myself and Satan. I think I started eating again after that day. I was indifferent to food during this season. My lack of taking nourishment started to concern me because I like to eat. Sadly, there were many decades ahead of me to turn me away from my deviations from God’s love, word and will. This experience was an example of just how spiritually bankrupt I was. I wanted my experience to be like the testimonies I heard about those people who received Christ and were absolutely different and ready for kingdom work the next day. My road would unfold before me deliberately over time. Chemical dependency was just the tip of an iceberg that had abysmal roots in racism, sex, religion, history, family and so much more.
“For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.”
Here is where I found my answers to a long series of learning experiences. The verse tells me that I can depend on God to be near when I love what He loves and hate what He hates. Over time, I learned to hate those little behaviors and attitudes that were feeding the chemical dependencies. My spiritual blindness, permission from the world and the enemy’s tricks led me to believe that the problem was only cocaine and alcohol. The Lord showed me that those things were the easiest things to relinquish once their fundamental roots were cut. I’m successful today because I no longer trust any attitude that supports going back to a lifestyle without Christ.
This prosperous walk is not only captured in a lifestyle of negation. Life would not be entirely fun if it was a daily grind of ‘don'ts’. But the Lord says He loves something. I’m finally living in the direction of what He loves. This layer of protection is even better than hating a host of things. Loving in God’s direction and other people places me in the Blessed Assurance where I find peace and usefulness in the kingdom. I’m amazed to watch myself pleasantly bless or correct someone when I am raging inside. Well, I didn’t say I was a master yet. But I have come to a distance.
This love portion is a compass to use for determining whether we are on course or not. He is a lover of justice. God loves to see that people and situations get their proper rewards. I was so confused and angry when God began His work on me. My thoughts centered around His wrath and punishment, but I was wrong. My life had to become odious so that the life of the Holy Spirit could break through. Many people stumble here, as I did. We don’t understand that our lives and the life of the Holy Spirit are mutually exclusive and at odds with each other. The recipient of His justice would recognize that God is performing His will, with love, along greater arcs of His passion that are too great to understand.
Being alive to write is just one example of the miracle of Jesus. The changes are ongoing for me, but those early years were tough. I’m sure I gave up hope numerous times. Being in a place to sincerely write about God’s love being a compass is a far leap from my crisis on the bridge that day. I hope I can grow more in this realization of God’s sanctifying work.