Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him, because evil is but a chance misfortune, illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement. -St. John of Kronstadt
A friend of mine recently posted this quote and it really caused my heart to stir. This year, the vision of Love Well has me seeking what I need to do to accomplish loving others well. How do I love? And how can I love EVERYONE well? The everyone part is probably the most difficult to figure out for me. Psalm 139:20-24 instantly comes to mind. “They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
I have two groups that I find easy to love well (most of the time): my family/friends and total strangers. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Let me explain. Loving a stranger seems easy because I feel willing to show kindness without knowing if they deserve it. But if I see behavior that is hurtful to others, I think they don’t deserve to be loved on or shown kindness until they act like they deserve it. In reality, this makes it hard to truly forgive others and even to extend grace. But not effectively extending forgiveness or grace, hinders me from truly feeling deserving to receive it. This quote makes me smack my forehead and realize how much I need to see not just others but myself in this way. God has made it clear in so many ways in His word that He purposefully made each one of us but Psalm 139:13-15 brings it all home. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”
Not just you and me, but EVERYONE. He carefully formed each of us. In His image. God is perfection and so is His creation. When I can look at myself and others as created in perfection, and that our actions are not His creation but our own, I can remember we were created for His Kingdom, not for this world and the sinful nature that consumes us each daily.
Choose grace today. First for yourself and especially in others. His grace helps us to love others well.