Have you ever heard the phrase, “Nice to meet you! I lie a lot.” NO. There isn’t a single person who identifies themselves that way. You probably don’t consider yourself a liar either; I know I don’t!  Everything I love in life revolves around truth in some capacity. And since I’m honest (and liberally handing out self-praise here) generally I think I’m pretty loving. I tend to be patient, understanding and gracious towards people.

It’s interesting how if we are fairly “decent” we give ourselves a good character pass. We think we’re ok for being pretty loving and patient generally. Being really kind to most people. Forgiving someone if the person deserves it and asks for it. It’s good to be good, right?

Let’s talk about that cage in your heart. (You may not know you have one, but you do.) In that little cell, you keep the people who have hurt you. Maybe a lot of them are people from church. The ones that betrayed your trust. Gossiped about you. Abandoned you. Or hurt you so deeply maybe you can’t even say their names out loud. But you know they are in there.

I feel aware of it when I am worshipping God. Suddenly there is just this block. A wall keeping me from worshipping truly, because I’m holding on to anger or hurt about someone. And instantly their faces come to mind.
I’m belting out about His reckless love that chases us down. All of us. That leaves the 99 for the one. Me. And them. The God that loves me, loves the other believer who hurt me. And somehow, in those most honest moments of recognizing God, I recognize myself. The hardness of heart I hold onto without seeing it. Singing and dancing about God while inwardly feeling anger, or even hate and disgust towards someone God loves. That feels like hypocrisy.

Want to know why? Because the Truth says: If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. -1 John 4:20-21

(Quick side note: If you think that one is rough, you should also know 1 John says if you hate your brother, you are basically a murderer.  And He says if you are ok with continuing in sin (such as holding onto bitterness or hate), that you are not of God and that you never knew Him. (1 John 3)  YIKES.

These accusations are heavy indeed. THAT is how seriously God takes love and reconciliation in His family.

We in the church seem to think it is ok to live at odds with each other, and say we love God. It’s fine to just not like someone, harbor bitterness toward them. Maybe you just actively avoid them, or seeking reconciliation with them…  But we still show up smiling on Sunday and happily connect in our community groups. We can sing praises, show love to the people we choose, and then walk away like God’s heart isn’t breaking. And like we aren’t living-liars.

So what do we do with that? Confess it. Get all that out. God knows it anyway. If you have to address someone personally, maybe do that next. Set those cage-bound captives free, by forgivingthem. Even the ones that don’t ask or care or want to meet you half way.

Of course, letting go of certain hurts or forgiving some people might require more healing (and maybe therapy) than just speaking out the words. But doing any of that first requires a choice. Choosing to love the difficult people. If we ask the Holy Spirit to love people through us, He will. Simply because He WILLS it. God does not want us to live locked inside hurt and hate. He wants us to have the Truth that sets us free.