A Prayer

We must pray that God will teach us to love those we do not like and then to like those he is teaching us to love.

--Jean Vanier

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18 thoughts on “A Prayer”

  1. Dr. Beck, keep on.  Take courage.  May your strength be "faithened."

    This message of kindness and compassion is one that I need to keep hearing, almost daily.  I need to see others hanging on to what's good, true, and beautiful, even when the world has thrown its worst at them.  Rejection, persecution, loss, and grief -- the whole works.  It is tempting to close up and retreat from life and love at such times.  And, from personal experience, there are times that we need to do this in order to heal and be strengthened (angels of mercy, descend, we pray!)  It is tempting to become discouraged, when our own loving, from all appearances, fails.  Our loving is imperfect, but because of Christ -- for us and *in* us, we keep on, with hope.  We rejoice when the Kingdom of God comes into our midst.

    Thank you for your message of hope, and for your lived (practiced) witness.  ~Peace~

  2. There are many that believe we are called to love everyone, but that love has an escape clause of not having to like them all. I never understood this line of thinking. Liking and loving seem, to me, to be too interdependent. 

  3. Hi Stephen, love is often messy.  And hard.  There is risk involved.  Fear of death, and loss, and failure, and rejection.  Which can and does happen.  It seems to me that when we allow ourselves to come close to others, there is an opportunity to know them and to be known.  We may not always like everything about others.  Should we?  But it is possible to listen and learn how to understand, with compassion, who they are and where they've been.  At the same time, we have an opportunity to learn about ourselves, and grow.  The fact is, we're all in this boat called life together.  Whether we like each other or not.  Love and compassion go a long way in making the journey less hard and certainly less lonely.  We can be resurrection people, and live with hope for a better outcome.  In my humble opinion.  ~Peace~

  4. I learned the difference from my mother who often said, "I may not always like what you do, but I will always love you." In this she meant that my actions may sometimes be objectionable, but that I would always be of unquestionable value to her, and that she would always hope for, and work towards, my ultimate happiness and well being. We can hate Hitler's actions, but we can still love him by hoping for his ultimate healing and transformation by God. I am a universalist in my belief that God *loves* all people, that He will heal and transform - "save" - all of mankind, not just those who we *like* -- those who happen to agree with our politics, religion, sense of humor, fashion sense, etc., or whose personalities are a pleasant match with our own.

    I will readily admit to not "liking" John Piper, the pastor, in that his Calvinism is abhorrent to me. But I can love the man with all my soul, longing for his true happiness and believing that he will someday come to understand and cherish the unconditional love of God towards all mankind. "God is love," and "love never fails," and so I will love him - expecting God's transformation in his life - despite not liking his opinions, actions or personality.

  5. I think many of the things that we say we do not like about a person are based on our own preferences. So I think part of our task as people is to transcend our own preferences and ways of understanding the world and that part of loving and liking someone involves learning to appreciate them and the things that make them, them. It's so easy to not like someone based on our own preferences and perspectives. We can get locked into our own ways of thinking and doing so easily. But when we transcend ourselves, our initial desires, perspectives, and preferences, we are open to the truths and realities that others possess and we are then able to accept those things that are beautiful and true rather than fighting against those things because we might not gravitate towards their truth and beauty naturally.

    So I think this learning to appreciate things that are not naturally within our bounds is an important practice that can be a bridge between our learning to both love and like others. 

    I will note that there are things that are appropriate not to appreciate and accept (i.e. sin in all its forms). So in terms of another person's sins, I think it is better framed to approach a person out of a desire for understanding rather than mere acceptance. In moral terms, the pursuit of understanding leads to the revealing of truth and growth while the pursuit of acceptance and appreciation leads to dishonesty and stagnancy.

  6. Hi Jim, as always, I love the gracious and understandable way that you express yourself.  I'm "listening" keenly, and hopefully, learning.  :-)  But I have an honest question about what that love looks like, in real life interactions.  Do you love John Piper from a distance, avoiding the inevitable clash of opinions and personality?  Do you seek out opportunities to be in (peaceful) relationship with John Piper?  In other words, how do we continually hope for and work towards the ultimate happiness and well-being of those who have hurt us or seem to be hell-bent on doing so?

    I care about all people, I genuinely do.  A lot of the things that people do, I don't like so much.  It's a fine line to accept and love with compassion, and express dissent in the face of unfairness and hurtful actions.  Jim, I was thinking precisely of Hitler after I last commented.  Love him and pray for his healing and salvation, but God no, I don't like what Hitler did!  Was there any help for him while he lived and terrorized?  Could love and compassion have had any effect in turning him from his hatred and destructive acts?  Thinking of Walter Wink and his Third Way...  And Bonhoeffer...  And attempting to extrapolate this knowledge into my own relationally imperfect (often) struggles.

    God bless you, Jim, for your generous heart and wisdom shared. ~Peace~

  7. God of Love and Truth, teach us to love those we do not like and then help us to like those you are teaching us to love.  Amen.

  8. Thanks, Stephen.  I find much wisdom in almost all of what you said here.  I am not sure how to understand your last point, however:  "...the pursuit of acceptance and appreciation leads to dishonesty and stagnancy."

    I think I at least somewhat disagree with that, but I may just not understand you fully.  D'oh!  To my mind, there often comes a point when it is necessary in a committed relationship to simply accept what is (be content and appreciate what is good, true, and beautiful in a person and in relationship with them).  And even to accept in ourselves that growth will take time.  That's not dishonest.  Or stagnating.  It is being compassionate with oneself.  People grow at their own rate.  To understand, we come close and communicate and work at being in relationship.  But there are times maybe to accept another person's limitations.  Give grace.  For-give shortcomings.  That's the best case scenario.  :-)  Very often, I fail at this -- as I've said here numerous times, I can be clumsy with my words and interactions.  I have my own hang-ups.  But this business of loving is really important to me.  I'd sure like to be progressing toward loving more, and doing it well.  Thanks for your interaction.  I'm needing this conversation precisely now.  Isn't God good that way?  ~Peace~

  9. Yea I thought there might be a snag with that one. I was lazy! The context is "acceptance and appreciation to a fault," where its only acceptance of EVERYTHING that is a person is or does, which I think we can agree, isn't very discerning or helpful. That is what leads to dishonesty and stagnancy. I should've explained that one. My bad!

    You are always so very engaging, so thank you for your pursuit of truth, clarity, and kindness in a context where miscommunication reigns! You are a blessing!

  10. Some variations?
    "I don't always love what you do, but I will always like you"
    "I don't always like what you  do, but I will always like you"
    "I don't always love what you do , but I will always love you"

  11. Great questions Susan, and thank you for your kind words. As it is now, I can only "love John Piper from a distance," as I doubt we will ever have the opportunity to sit down together and discuss our differing views of God. What that love looks like is my continuing efforts to have compassion for him in my own heart, for what I see as his misunderstanding of scripture and God's character. If we ever could sit down together I hope that my love could be exemplified through my questions of his theology - ie. how does he compare his love for his own children to the "love" of God for the non-elect? Would he ever abandon his own children to the eternal hell that he sees God subjecting the non-elect to? And through those questions I would hope to point to the inconsistencies of his theology and perhaps influence him to re-evaluate that theology in light of the feelings of his own God-given heart. 

    For "those who have hurt us or seem to be hell-bent on doing so" the only option may be to love them from a distance. In order to protect ourselves and others from psychopathic serial killers, for example, we must lock them away. But we must also view them through the eyes of compassion by seeing them as "sick," and not as "wicked and evil demons" that deserve to be tortured forever. While WE may not be able to "cure" them, we can have faith that GOD can and will, and accept that that transformation may not come in this life but through the "restoration of all things" that God has promised. We must accept that our love for those who may "hate" us so strongly can often only be through "giving them to God" -- letting Him heal them in His own time and in His own way.

    As far as Hitler is concerned, my own compassion for him comes through trying to imagine what "hell" in his own mind could have driven him to do what he did? What abusive experiences of his own, and horrible misconceptions and perverted views of his fellow man, could have caused him to see them as less than human, deserving of annihilation? In this same light I would ask the "traditional" Christians how they have come to see non-Christians as inhuman, deserving of eternal hell? How have they so perverted the "love of all mankind" that their religion claims, into an eternal hatred for anyone who differs in their beliefs? It seems that many of us can too easily lower our own "unclean" criteria for our fellow man, and come to see them as demons rather than fellow children of God. 

    While I may hate the actions of the Hitler's and Bin Laden's of the world, I will never consider them beyond the power of God to transform and heal. To do that would be to declare a lack of faith in Him. 

    As others have said, "If God can't, why call Him 'God.' And if he won't, why call Him 'good.'" I have simply chosen to believe that God is not only able, but willing, to "save" all of His creation. Any other "theology" leaves me with nothing but feelings of utter futility and a profound hatred of this one we call "God." I cannot trust a "god" who can't, and I cannot love a "god" who won't. It is as simple as that.

    Wherever you are John Piper, I love you.  ;)

    Luv you too Susan.

  12. This is a hard prayer for the abused.  Certainly God can redeem these relationships, but it is very hard in a relationship with an unremorseful abuser.

  13. Sometimes - not all the time - I question whether you can really love a person you've never met. I mean, it just seems like sentimentality to me more than it does a tangible expression of love (which is supposed to be a verb, something that we do for or to a person). Is that too cynical? In my mind it just doesn't jive well with the sort of love that Jesus speaks of (loving your neighbor, your enemy, etc.). Those are typically people you have actual interactions with. So that's just a thought, and I apologize if it is found to be a bit too cynical, but it just seems more helpful to focus our ideas of love around action rather than sentimentality. Maybe I'm just a hard-nosed snob who just doesn't get the sort of love you are describing? Idk. What do you guys think?

  14. If you really were a hard-nosed snob you wouldn't be asking yourself these kinds of questions. I think that your questions reveal your sincere desire to love others as Jesus would, but like all of us you are searching for the best way to do that. I agree that we should focus our love around action rather than sentimentality, but when we get to talking about loving the likes of Hitler, someone who is long since dead, we find action to be impossible. Then the sentimentality of hoping for his divine healing is the only thing that can come into play.

    To me, one of the best definitions of love is that it is when your own happiness is dependent on the happiness of another. When I came to believe that God does love me UNCONDITIONALLY, the effect that revelation had on my heart was for me to realize that I could never be truly happy knowing that a single person was separated from that love. My eternal happiness is utterly dependent on the eternal happiness of every single one of my fellow humans. If one is lost I simply cannot be happy as one of the 99 who are not. I want Hitler, and Osama bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein, and Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Piper, and every other sick and dying person (which includes all or us) to be healed and resurrected as I believe I will be. And I have come to the similar conclusion that I cannot "love" (have true affection for) a god who does not desire, and ultimately work towards, the same.

  15. Jim, thank you for this well-articulated response.  I so appreciate it.  I've been unable to meditate quietly on this subject over the past 24 hours -- family and social commitments preclude an uninterrupted, extended, prayerful moment of reflection.  But know that it remains on my mind, and when I am able to respond in a manner that honors the time and energy and "heart" that you put into your comments, I will come back to this thread -- probably in a few days' time.

    Thank you.  Deeply grateful.

  16. Since our discussion on loving<-->liking yesterday, one thought/memory has come to mind in response to the distinction between understanding and acceptance/appreciation.  It is the memory of my mother's last years and my relationship with her during that time.  I won't take up space and time with the backstory, but simply the outcome.  Because I came to understand (listen, know, feel, love compassionately) at least a little part of my mother's story -- how she was hurt and broken and sick -- I was able to accept her for who she was, and even appreciate the good, true, and beautiful in her.  On our last Mother's Day together, I prayerfully wrote a blessing to my mom.  My daughter, then 8yo, read it aloud -- because I felt I could not read it without breaking down in tears.  In the blessing, I told my mother, essentially, that I was proud of her (naming two specific instances when she was radiant with Christ's love), thanking her for teaching me some of the most important lessons of life (again, naming a few specifics), and finally, telling her how much I loved her and appreciated having her as my mother.

    My mom listened intently and then she slowly turned toward me, and her eyes met mine.  A softness came into them, a "knowing" peace.  She simply said, "Thank you."

    In all of my life, that was one of the hardest moments at which to arrive with total surrender and unconditional love.  But, I knew that that was what my mother needed from me.  And it was within my power (because of Christ "in" me, strengthening me) to give it, without condition.  Seeing my mom's peace was my reward.  Six weeks later, my mother died suddenly upon waking one early morning (heart failure).  I have been eternally grateful, ever since, to have been "led" to that moment of forgiveness and blessing with my mother.  I still grieved long and hard after her death, for many reasons, but I felt that I had done what God had prepared me and called me to do.  If I had held back, I know that I would now feel such regret and grief.  That is the moment in my life at which I feel I was at my best, fully within God's will and loving with Christ's own heart.  I hold that up as a high standard for myself going forward.  I often love foolishly, I suppose.  And sometimes get hurt and grieve those losses and failures deeply.  But I still believe that love is the greatest.  Though I am awkward and clumsy very often at it.  God even uses the failures to teach and prepare me for something ahead that I will need to do.  God doesn't waste any love that we give away.  We can regret not loving with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, though...  So yes, this simple prayer that Dr. Beck has posted is hard and messy to live out.  But it's the only thing that really matters.

    Sorry to go on long.  I do not know how to talk about these abstracts in scientific or philosophical terms.  I can only tell it as the story I've lived.  That's not really sentimental or idealistic.  It is very tangible and real, actually.  Blessings to you, Stephen.  And thank you.  ~Peace~

  17. Susan, please don't feel like you owe me a response. I was just sharing my view in the hope that it might help someone else. Enjoy the time with your family.

  18. Like the little girl said to her brother after being teased by him: "I love you  just enough  to get to heaven!"

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