For a Christian, there really is no bigger sin than having hate in your heart. Christ tells us that the most important commandment is to love God and the second is to love each other. Pretty clear that hate isn’t a part of a Christian life.
I confess… I HATE people who have animals and don’t treat them with loving kindness. I don’t just hate the obvious abusers, but I hate people that don’t treat their animals well. I can’t pray for them. I can’t love them. I just don’t know how.
Yesterday morning as I was pulling in to the local gas station/grocery on my way to work, the truck of one of the regulars was in the parking lot. No surprise. But the dog in the bed of the truck was a surprise. I had never seen a dog in the truck before. It took all of three seconds for anger to flare up in me.
It was 19 degrees. Animals struggle as much as we do when the weather see-saws back and forth from 70 degrees to 19 degrees, and any dog who lives in Tennessee isn’t really equipped for 19 degree weather. What makes this jerk think his dog wants to sit on a cold, metal truck bed when it’s 19 degrees? Imagine how cold it was back there when they were traveling the 45 miles per hour (or more) on the road to get there. The poor dog was exposed to subzero windchill for what? To protect his upholstery? Meanwhile, he’s in the cab of the truck enjoying heat and no wind.
What was this jerk doing while his poor dog was lonely and cold in the back of his truck? Eating breakfast in a warm seat across the table from one of his buddies. How do I know the dog was lonely? First, his body language screamed Yellow Zone–uncomfortable and unhappy. Second, dogs are pack animals. They NEVER want to be alone. Instinctually, alone equals death. What dogs crave most is the company of the pack, whether that pack be us, other dogs, or other animals. So this guy was depriving his dog of the one thing his dog wants most, so he could eat breakfast with his buddy. Nice.
You can see how quickly I escalate and how angry I get. God made these animals for the sole purpose of loving and serving us. I get so angry when I see someone clearly defile that love. The correct, Christian response would be to pray that through Christ the person’s heart is opened to the love of his animal and through that love to God’s love as well. Instead, I fume. Sometimes for days. Not only does it not bring the guilty party closer to God, but it also separates me from God. It’s sin. Plain and simple.
Even with the best of intentions, losing sight of God’s great love for us and all his creation happens in the blink of an eye. One minute we’re rejoicing in his Grace, and the next, we’re mired in hate and anger. I shouldn’t stop caring, but I certainly need to find a better way to do it. I need a way that gives God a chance to show me his wondrous mercy and perform miracles even on heartless jerks who leave their dogs alone in the bed of a pickup when it’s 19 degrees.
No one ever said it would be easy. Christ only said, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27 NLT) Possible but not easy.
Today, I pray that God will give me the strength to seek and serve Christ not just in those I want to love but even in those I don’t. I pray that God will soften my heart to love even my enemies.
Which of your “enemies” do you struggle to love? to pray for?