Freedom is the state of not being under the control of another.
Many leaders in the church are not truly free. As a result, many of the people in our churches are not truly free either. And we’ve not even gotten to the people outside of the church, who are still in bondage to so much more!
As those who believe in Christ and walk with Him, WE MUST BECOME FREE if we are to bring others to freedom. You cannot give what you do not have.
What is holding us back from true freedom?
THE ENEMY OF FREEDOM IS UNFORGIVENESS — causing an inability to LOVE. In the fight to be totally free within, love is the greatest weapon in our arsenal! Because LOVE is always the key to finding true victory.
Today’s devotional is a different take on a verse we’ve considered before. Here’s today’s verse –
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
Sometimes it seems as though the shorter verses are harder to obey. Choosing to love requires another decision – choosing to forgive. It is certain that someone who has been your enemy has hurt you deeply, and probably deliberately. These sorts of things can be very difficult to forgive. When you withhold forgiveness, you give someone else control of your emotions and your life. When you choose to forgive, you allow the healing process to begin — in you.
Saeed Abedini is an Iranian-American pastor who used to regularly travel back to his birth country to help establish churches and orphanages and to encourage Christians there.
A few years ago, Pastor Saeed was imprisoned in Iran for setting up home churches in the Islamic nation and charged with compromising national security.
On the first day of his imprisonment, an Iranian interrogator made numerous threats against Pastor Saeed. But Saeed told him, “Whatever you do to me, still on the last day that I see you, I am going to hug you and tell you that I love you. You can never push hate into my heart.”
For three and a half years, this brute regularly beat and tortured Saeed, often refusing him even clothes to cover his body. The demand of the torturer was that Pastor Saeed recant his faith publicly. In my role with the American Center for Law & Justice, I played a small part in working for his eventual release. The day that he was to be released, Saeed stood blindfolded under guard in a small room.
Just two hours before a plane would take him from Iran to freedom, Pastor Saeed heard the voice of the man who had brutally beaten him during the years of torture, trying to force him to recant his faith. Upon hearing his captor’s voice, he reached out and grabbed his interrogator’s hand, pulled the man to him and hugged him.
As he did, his former captor began to shake and gave him permission to remove his blindfold.
“Do you remember what I told you on the first day we met?” Pastor Saeed asked him.
“No, I don’t remember,” the man replied, but his eyes betrayed his lie.
The pastor’s voice spoke softly as he said, “I remember. I told you that you could never make me hate you. I told you that the love Jesus placed inside of me would allow me to forgive you, day after day, and would allow me to love you. You know I have been praying for you. I want to tell you now that I forgive you for all that you have done to me. I love you.”
Pastor Saeed had determined to forgive. He had decided in advance that he would love. His decision to love, in spite of abuse and torture, gave him the victory and glorified the name of Jesus. PASTOR SAEED WAS ALREADY FREE.
DETERMINING (even in advance) TO FORGIVE opens the way for LOVE.
Forgiveness …. the VOLUNTARY process by which the victim deliberately closes to release his/her claims (however righteous) against the person who injured or offended them. Forgiveness is a deliberate choice to “drop the charges” and refuse to prosecute.
The reason we are instructed to forgive is because FORGIVENESS changes US
— when we give it and when we don’t.
REFUSING TO FORGIVE is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Unforgiveness poisons US.
FORGIVENESS does not mean there is no pain – but it aids the healing.
FORGIVENESS does not mean there are no boundaries – proper boundaries are necessary in any relationship, but especially in one where the other person has caused significant pain.
FORGIVENESS does not equal trust – trust is earned.
There’s a verse in the bible that says “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.”
I’m so glad that He renews them every morning. Because there are some mornings where, if I am honest, my prayer would have to be “Father, I’m thankful that Your mercies after new every morning, BECAUSE I SPENT THE ONES YOU GAVE ME YESTERDAY.”
Love can be tough, and it certainly takes effort. Jesus never said obeying Him would be easy; He said it would be worth it.
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
Love is the ultimate expression of the outworking of the Holy Spirit in us. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that the first fruit of the Spirit Paul lists in Galatians 5:22 is LOVE? Love is the greatest weapon in our arsenal!
We’ve forgotten that love is a verb, not just a noun. Its expressions are actions, lived out in the day-to-day lives we lead in this world. Those actions must be an expression of the love of Christ or they miss the mark. No matter what else we do for the Kingdom of God, unless it is founded upon the love of Christ, characterized by the love of Christ, and empowered with the love of Christ — it is worthless.
When you refuse to forgive, you hurt yourself ….. Not them.
When you decide to forgive, you are saying they no longer owe you. You are saying that you’ve chosen to drop the charges against them, however valid.
Loving your enemies is actually more a decision to LOVE YOURSELF and to LOVE GOD.
Loving your enemies is a decision to trust God more than your righteous anger.
Loving your enemies is a recognition that you did not earn God’s forgiveness, and a decision not to make someone else earn yours.
It is a decision that opens the door for healing to begin.
It is a decision that invites the Holy Spirit to touch your heart with joy and peace.
It is a decision that brings YOU freedom.
The enemy of freedom is unforgiveness.
The enemy of unforgiveness is LOVE.