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  • Writer's pictureShannon Makujina

Hitler, Best Friends, and Calvary Love

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?”

Jesus’s words sting as I read them at the end of a long, tear filled day. There are very few days I have done nothing but sob, but the past two were among them.

All day long. Gut wrenching, angry sobs shook my body over and over again, as I screamed the same words: “I don’t understand what I did to deserve this!”.

The past few months have been a nightmare, as I struggled to deal with the sudden loss of someone I could have never imagined life without. A best friend of best friends, someone who had walked with me through hell and back, for years, suddenly disappeared. As the loss continues, my grief builds, day by day. Understanding and hope turns to rage. Courage turns into fear. Time that should have healed just continues to bring new hurt.

Already isolated and dealing with abandonment issues, I crumbled this weekend. Much loved family members continued to pull away. My rental situation fell through and I am once again searching for somewhere to live. My whole life feels like it fell apart.

While I struggle in pain, trying to understand how to feel about someone based on how they treat me, Jesus asks me to do something different.

Love them regardless of how they treat me.

And love them. Not what they can give me.

And yes, that is so hard. And I won’t pretend to have it down. I don’t. But I want to.

Anger will not comfort my soul. Endless troubleshooting brings desperation and confusion. But loving like Jesus brings comfort, because it takes it out of my hands. Now it no longer matters what they do, or how unfair it is, or how miserable I feel. Because if I am loving them like Jesus, my response is always the same.

According to Jesus, if you only love those who love you back, that is not love for them, that is love for you. Even the tax collectors, Jews who callously abandoned their families to work for the government, were capable of loving like this.

“But how?” we all ask. Me included. “Just how?”

Telling myself to stop being selfish, just makes me angrier at my own deep failing. The only way I can have this love for anyone else, is to look to the cross and see this love for my own soul.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person–though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8.

Christ died for me while I was still his enemy. And if I can wrap my mind around that, suddenly everything else becomes clear.

When we think of Jesus telling us to love our enemies, too many times Christians and skeptics alike instantly think of men like Hitler. And we either say, “I am supposed to” or “How am I supposed to–love him?”

But here is the thing: God does not ask me to love Hitler. He does not command me to “go again” to Stalin. He asks me to love my enemies. He does not ask me to pray for the leader of North Korea, who persecutes his people. He asks me to pray for the ones who persecute me.

Here’s what I’m finding out: If you learn to love your enemies, they cease being enemies and become opportunities.

And the more it hurts, the bigger of an opportunity it is.

As my own anger and confusion threaten to overwhelm me, I have to keep refocusing myself on Jesus, not those who hurt me. Jesus, who loved me while I was a traitor. Jesus, who loves me even now, despite my unbelief and my fear and my failings.

If Jesus loved those who dragged him to the cross and nailed him there, how can I not love those who hurt and betray me?

If Jesus faced a screaming, angry mob, without a single word of self defense, then surely I can stop saying “it’s not fair”.

And if Jesus rose again and offered life to his killers, then I can hope for a resurrection in my own fragmented relationships, by showing a love and forgiveness that only the Gospel can explain.

I want all this, I truly do. I want to lay down my anger and love the ones who hurt me. I want to find freedom in forgiving. I want to see God heal what is broken.

The best friend I mentioned earlier–she showed me unconditional, Christlike love, many times I did not deserve it. When I saw her, I saw Jesus.

Now she is absent and the situation has completely changed. In this pain, I want to pledge to do something different. I want her to see the love of the Gospel in me. I want the way I pick up the pieces, the way I wait, and the way I choose to speak, to show nothing but the love of Jesus. I want to do this for my family as well. I want to do this for the man who assaulted me.

I cannot make myself love this way. I can only immerse myself in the love that Jesus has for me, till it overflows out of my life. This is the only way we have a hope of healing.

Maybe Amy Carmichael said it best.

“If I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love…

That which I know not, teach Thou me, O Lord, my God.”

Yes, God, teach me.

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