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  • Writer's pictureHeather Anne

My Favorite Bible Verse (It isn't what you think it would be.)

I want to share my favorite Bible verse with you. My readers who are not Christian, I’m going to ask you to hang in here with me for a minute. I promise you, this article isn’t going to be what you think it is. It’s not going to be a blog post trying to convert you. It’s going to be a blog post where I share my heart and I think you’ll be happy if you keep reading. It’s the Christians who might get mad at me, but I’ll ask them to hang in there with me, too.

This article is ©2020 Heather Anne at Heather Anne Art and Soul. All rights reserved. See my copyright notice here.

When people ask me what my favorite Bible verse is, they expect to hear the usual ones about God’s love or his miracles. I love those ones, too, but my favorite verses are the ones from the book of Matthew below.

Matthew 7:21-29 New International Version

True and False Disciples

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Are you shocked? I’ve shocked plenty of people before when they ask me about my favorite verses. Why would I love the verses where Jesus is rejecting his own believers?

"That's awfully dark," is what one person said to me when I told him.

It's not dark when you hear my reasons.

I have friends whom I love and cherish from all walks of life, and I mean all walks. I am friends with people from all religions and no religion. I have friends who have all kinds of differences, but we find common threads and that’s where our friendships live.

Many of my friends have shared deep wounds and pain they have suffered at the hands of Christians.

I have had people tell me, “Heather, you are the only Christian who has ever been nice to me.”

That breaks me.

It breaks me deep in my spirit to think that fellow Christians, who are supposed to embody the love of Christ- the Christ who was scourged, and his flesh ripped from his body, who endured suffering that I can barely stand to think of let alone look at, (I saw the Passion of the Christ once and I don’t think I can do it again)... THAT Jesus who died an unimaginably painful death because he LOVED us that much… those followers are WOUNDING people THAT deeply!

1 John 4:7-8 NIV

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Let that one sink in. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Boom. Mic drop.

If we know God, we better be loving on a whole lot of people, even the ones we don’t agree with. Even the ones who vote the for the guy we can't stand. Yeah, we're supposed to love them, too!

Am I always successful at it? Nope. Do I try? Every stinkin' day. I try really hard and I weep sometimes when I fail. It is exhausting to love people who annoy the crap out of you! Isn't it? Lord help me love the annoying people. Please, I really need the help!

It doesn't mean we are a doormat. I have removed people from my life, sometimes temporarily, sometimes for good, who are cruel or not emotionally safe for me. Loving people radically doesn't mean screaming, "I love you!" like a crazy person while you're on the floor being kicked in the gut. You can love others radically and set healthy boundaries for your safety and your well being.

I didn’t even want to write this blog to be honest with you. I felt called and compelled to do it. The reason I did not want to write it is that those Christians that Jesus is talking about in those verses aren’t gonna like it. I would rather just enjoy a big mug of coffee on my back patio than incur the wrath of my fellow believers. Especially the ones that make people cry, because they’re likely to make me cry, too.

The biggest reason Matthew 7: 21-29 are my favorite Bible verses is because, when someone I care about opens up about the deep wounds they received at the hands of Christians, especially when they have been so hurt they don’t want anything to do with Christians or they have even come to despise us, I tell them, “You know what… Jesus doesn’t like what those people have done to you, either. Here are some verses about that."

Those verses are sobering and should bring every Christian to our knees. I live with those verses and I take them seriously. When I meet Jesus, I do not want to cry, “Lord, Lord” to him and have him say he never knew me.

None of us are perfect. Not a single one. We are flawed, all of us. No matter what religion, or philosophy we follow, no matter how loving we are, we make mistakes. But the patterns of our lives, the softness of our hearts to admit we have done wrong and try to fix it, the willingness to take correction and a radical commitment to forgiveness are what we are called to do. If your heart is hard, then how can you give softness to others?

Just like it is exhausting to love the annoying people, it is also exhausting to constantly try to soften our hearts. It makes us cry because we feel bad about the dumb stuff we do. It's so much easier to say, "He's the one! It's his fault! I didn't do nuffin'!" like a five year old and stomp away. Softening the heart hurts. It makes us vulnerable.

Some of the most incredible, selfless, loving people I know are Christians.but you would not notice them. They don’t sound off about their religiosity on Facebook everyday, right after the dripping with sarcasm meme they posted about something related to politics. They LIVE it. They are giving all they can to others and they love with a ridiculousness that astounds me at times.

I have a friend who is a missionary and her children both grew up to be missionaries. This woman has had some serious health challenges. I mean really bad ones. Yet, she will drop everything, even if she can barely walk, to come pray with others. She is probably one of the most at risk people I know during the COVID pandemic, yet she is out ministering to others and giving out food because she feels called to help and serve. She has been at her sickest point, did not tell me how awful she was feeling, and dropped everything to come minister to me when I was broken. Both of her kids are the same way. They will have nothing and give all of the nothing they have to someone who needs it more. I have seen them do it for the eleven years I have known them, over and over and over again.

I know many of these sorts of Christians. I have served alongside many of them. Unless you know them, too, you might not even hear of all the good things they do because they don’t brag about it. They do it. They live it. They ARE it.

But… sigh… I am continually saddened when people represent my faith who show so much hate, even to other Christians! I have certainly had my share of the wounding. I have volunteered and served in church in so many different capacities. I’m a joiner and when I join, I serve. Many times it was a wonderful, uplifting experience. A few times though, it was nothing but pain, backstabbing, cruelty, adults bullying me, bullying others and gossip.

Becoming a worship leader for a kids program was a dream come true for me. To be able to use my years of training as a singer and my guitar playing to play music for kids made me so happy! My happiness quickly turned to stress as I was picked on, talked behind my back, verbally attacked and treated like dirt by people who were jealous that I had the position, people who wanted different music and people who were just plain nasty to everyone, yet the pastor would not stop them from volunteering and bullying the other adults. I never cried so much from being picked on as a grown adult as I did when I lead worship for kids. (Please for the love of all things musical, treat your worship leaders with kindness. Many of them have shared similar stories with me. Leading worship is H.A.R.D. Don’t grind up your worship leaders and spit them out church)

Before you get all crazy on me and say, “But.. but.. who are you to judge? They are forgiven, too! Why are you being so harsh? You’re not perfect either!” I will say I am nobody to judge. Yes they are forgiven… over and over and over and over again because that’s the God I know and love. The insanely forgiving one. The one who asked forgiveness for those who beat him and hung him on a cross. That guy.

Anyone, I mean anyone, who softens their heart and wants to be redeemed is redeemable. There are many stories of awful people, criminals and murderers who had their hearts radically changed and became new people, loving and kind people. I personally have seen people who did terrible things be redeemed and have their hearts changed. The human heart is so malleable. It’s like clay and it can be molded if the owner of it is willing.

Our sins, our hateful behavior, our mistakes, our terrible moments are between us and God. This article is not to condemn other believers, even though it sounds like it is. It is for ALL of us, because I have done my share of hurting people, too. In our own brokenness, we hurt others sometimes. This article is for the wounded. I am one of you. I bear those scars from people of my own faith and I am here to tell you that… Jesus doesn’t like that stuff either.

So when someone says to me that Christians are horrible people. Christians are judgmental and spread hate. Christians don’t practice what they preach. Christians are greedy and all they care about is money. I say yes, SOME are, NOT ALL. Never all. Some are those things and Jesus has some verses for them. Here they are.

Matthew 7:21-29 New International Version

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Please don’t blame Jesus for his followers. He gets upset about that, too. I am so sorry for those who have wounded you, shunned you and hated you in the name of my God. I am so sorry for the pain you bear. I bear it, too.

I would also ask you to forgive them. Forgiving is NOT excusing or accepting. I always say that if someone robs your house, you aren’t going to forgive them and bring them cookies in jail. Forgiveness is NOT for the other person. You may never see that person again. For your own healthy boundaries, you may never speak to them again. It's a valid choice. Maybe the person who hurt you has passed away and you don't even have the chance tell them you forgive them.

The man who attacked me and raped me in my early twenties found me years later on social media to ask for my forgiveness.

And I gave it to him.

I did not, however, accept his friend request or allow him into my life. His contact was completely unexpected. It shook me to my core. It brought up all kinds of memories I would rather have left buried. But I listened to his story of redemption. I listened to his heart felt apologies and the sound of his tears on the other end of the phone and I forgave him. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, having that conversation. It’s not for me to judge whether his redemption will stick or whether he meant it. He asked for nothing in return and now, ten years later, I have never heard from him again. I had already forgiven him in my own heart, NOT excusing what he did, but refusing to hold on to hatred. When I was given the chance to hear him ask for the forgiveness I had already given him, and to say yes, I forgive you… it was a precious gift from God that I took, even though it was a gift that was so painful to open.

Radical, ridiculous forgiveness is for YOU. It is a freedom. It is a softening of your own heart, to say that what they did is terrible, but I’m not going to be like them and hold hate in my own heart. I’m not going to meet cruelty with cruelty. I will know and remember what they did, but I will give myself peace and let the hatred and anger go. You can still have your boundaries. You do not have to give them cookies. You do not have to let them into your life. But.. you don’t have them living inside your head anymore, either.

Radical forgiveness is HOPE! The thought that even someone who was once a monster can be redeemed is the greatest hope in the whole world.

As a Christian, I strive hard to make sure I am not one of the ones that hears, “I never knew you.” I fail many times. I make many mistakes. I have hurt those I care about, like everyone has. I ask God to soften and change my heart. For those who carry the scars I also carry, Jesus isn’t happy about what was done to you, either.

This article is ©2020 Heather Anne at Heather Anne Art and Soul. All rights reserved. See my copyright notice here.

Here is a video on my YouTube channel about radical forgiveness. Forgiveness is for YOU! Healthy boundaries and finding peace in the midst of turmoil

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May 15, 2020

Wow. Wow!

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