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The Poison of Winning

I was in a cozy living room with a group of people I had been doing ministry with for a number of years. It seemed like just another normal ‘church’ meeting. I quickly found out it was not. I was asked to remain silent as I listened to a request for me to step away from my ministry position. In the confusion and betrayal of the moment, my heart began to rage and enemies arose--enemies with names and faces.

Jesus spends time in the sacred writings addressing our enemies. In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, He speaks of being blessed if we have enemies, and then gives extreme scenarios of how we are not to resist those who wish us harm, but to actually love them. Wow Jesus, really? The path of non-resistance and loving our enemies is not only practically ridiculous, but impossible.

Which, I believe, is Jesus’ point. Jesus recognizes that enemies are real. We really do encounter people who seem to actively work against us and poison our reputation with others.

Why does Jesus cut at our natural inclinations when it comes to enemies? Jesus knows the moment we take, sue, or strike, we are seizing identity. This is the futile path humanity has chosen from the beginning of time, when we desired to be like God. Jesus is directly pursuing our hearts. What is it that our heart is actually desiring?

Jesus wants to know: What will define us? The enemy? Or trusting the heart of God with our story? We need saving from this futile attempt to make a name for ourselves. We need saving from the poisonous desire of always having to “win”, or to be “right”. When we go after our enemies, by definition, we have concluded that we have a righteousness that has exceeded theirs. Jesus has reminded us already that we need a ‘rightness’ that is better than even the best religious people. And that’s where we’re stuck, right? We’re stuck because Jesus is telling us that the only rightness that matters is the perfect rightness of the Father.

Our identity can’t ever rest in being right, or in seizing our identity when our enemies come knocking. Jesus is calling us away from gaining an identity by “beating” our enemies, because it is an identity we will never gain. Instead He calls us to an identity and a solution to our enemy problem by asking us to turn our eyes to Him. Through the command to love our enemies, Jesus forces us to look for a solution apart from ourselves. In asking us to embrace our identity in the Only One who was ever perfectly right, Jesus is offering us life.

As the years have passed, I’ve come to see the evening that I was crushed by my enemies as a holy, sacred moment. The pain and scars remain, but the scars are sacred. In the midst of human faces and human words, the Evil One was raging a war for my heart. Who was I? Who and what was going to define me? While the Evil One was shouting in my ear that I was not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to be in my calling, I heard a gentle whisper that ripped through layers of my heart, and set it on a path to freedom: “I am enough and you are Mine.” The faces and the voices that I had labeled ‘enemy’ then faded, and I knew this moment was not about them. This was about my heart. This was about Jesus laying bare my sense of identity. In that sacred moment, I knew the rage that I felt was not for them, but had been for God, who apparently had seen fit to not bless my attempts to seize, control, and manipulate the ministry He had called me to.

In that holy moment, I gave up and cried “Uncle!” Would I, in this moment, step away from this particular ministry? No. I picked myself up off the proverbial floor, not because I believed I was right. Frankly, in that moment, I had no idea. But I did know this: I didn’t need to be right. It didn’t matter. In the crucible of that moment I found an identity not my own. I was God’s beloved son.

29 comments (Add your own)

1. Linda Peshek wrote:
Yes! The Lord uses whatever it takes, often the betrayal of others to push us into His arms, into intimacy with Him. He uses the wrong-doing of others to show us our own idolatry and in the meantime changes our heart to actually love them! He shows us who our true enemy is.This unnatural love for others is "other-worldly" and that's how the world will know us. It's different, not normal! He will use the scalpel of His Word and His Spirit to redeem our story. When our story is replaced by His story (Jesus), joy is the prize!

Mon, February 27, 2017 @ 3:04 PM

2. Karen rise b wrote:
Whoever wrote this has good insight to His Father's heart. But it does take "enemies" ; a battle, opposition, darkness - to see the light...if we seek Him for (it). I know full well the feeling of being faced with proverbial enemies of my soul...and how I have fought for my rights!! BUT When I found out that I have a defender Who can handle my enemies, I saw that, standing behind Him ( realizing who I am in you said), I am preserved - my dignity is preserved, my ego needs no licks, my standing in the community has not suffered; rather I am made a queen in His Court. I no longer need to crow like a rooster and get bloody in a battle of pride; licking my wounds like a dog. I am a beloved daughter of my King. And I can easily move on to the next trial of faith with more confidence about the outcome, having the wisdom that can only come from being "out there" in the fray. Less of me and more of Him. Step by step.

Mon, February 27, 2017 @ 6:00 PM

3. dennis wrote:
Beautiful. And in our freedom to not have to win, we then have freedom to love our enemies.

Tue, February 28, 2017 @ 11:52 AM

4. Debi Eorgan wrote:
Good word Brad! Hardest lesson to learn, the lesson that God's primary will for our life is our holiness. He is not about appearances or worldly success. And as hard as the lesson is, once we get it, it is so freeing. The only thing I've found that's sad about it, and maybe I'm wrong, but in my experience I can't teach it to anyone, they have to experience it for themselves. But that in itself is another lesson :-)

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