We skipped church one Sunday morning. I suggested we go get donuts, something I’ve never said before. My husband looked shocked but quickly agreed with a smile. I appreciate his trust in me and how he goes along with my Spirit-led spontaneity.
As the three of us blew into the tiny donut shop that smelled of sweet bread and warm caramel icing, I saw the sign overhead that read “Hold Tight to Jesus.”
The woman behind the counter smiled with joy-filled eyes as we asked about their baked goods. A man with an apron came out from the back to greet us. I told them I liked their sign. What happened next has kept me thinking ever since.
We went for donuts but had church instead.
I typically like to ask entrepreneurs about their story and how they became what they are today. The owner, Lang, shared that he had been born in Vietnam and was a teenager during the height of the Vietnam War. He escaped to Cambodia and survived in the jungle for almost a year. He was caught, imprisoned, and persecuted during the time of the Cambodian killing fields. He described his experience in prison like Joseph with Pharoh. Even though he knew nothing of Jesus at the time, God protected him for a purpose.
At sixteen, he was sponsored to come to the United States by a pastor. Years later, he came to know the love of Jesus and saw how God had always had a good plan for His life, even with all the hardship he suffered.
Now, retired from his first career and a proud father of seven adult children, Lang bakes donuts to raise money to send back to Cambodia, to share the Gospel with the military, drill fresh water wells for the poor and support new churches.
With a smile from ear to ear, the owner said, “We don’t need much to live, so we send back the money to Cambodia so more people can love Jesus like we do.”
Because of Lang’s obedience in choosing forgiveness, his enemies now love Jesus, too.
I’ve been wondering since that Sunday, “How do I love my enemies?”
Luke 6 isn’t exactly in the top ten Christmas verses, but I wonder if it should be. People walked from miles around to see Jesus, be healed, and hear something from God’s prophet. His big stage would be a mountain ledge, and when He took it, Jesus announced His special team of twelve. Then, Jesus turned to these fresh, new, good-news disciples and shared the secret of what it meant to be truly blessed in God’s kingdom.
The disciples would have still been smiling with new roles, waiting to hear His words. The audience would’ve been holding their breath as they leaned in to make sure they heard Jesus’ every word.
But in that big-stage moment, Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”
He told them and tells us to love our enemies, to do good to them. Jesus said that is the moment when we will be acting like “the children of the Most High, for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:35-36 NLT).
Jesus asks us to engage with someone who hates us, curses us, hurts us, and to do for them what you would like them to do for you.
Can you take a moment to ask God who is missing from your Christmas list? Someone that meets these very difficult requirements?
Enemy is a strong word. You may not have someone hunting you down like the Romans were to God’s people, but I know there are friends that have hurt your feelings, a church member who has judged you, or a family member that has treated you with evil instead of love. Maybe this “enemy” is someone you’ve had to deal with most of your life or a loved one who spoke a harsh word to you that you can’t seem to get out of your mind.
Please hear me say, I’m not trying to dismiss anything you’ve gone through. Evil is real and tries to steal, kill, and destroy you from the hands of your God, who loves you. I’ve heard stories from friends that made me want to vomit in grief on their behalf. If you’re going through something truly devastating, I’m praying for God to fight for you in your situation. Please seek help and protection if you need it. Tell someone safe what’s going on in your life. Know you are valued and loved, worthy of Jesus dying for you.
My focus is on Jesus’ words and the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life. So, let’s assume “enemy” means anyone you need to forgive and actively love, even though they don’t deserve it.
How can you love your enemy during this season of giving? Jesus tells us to do good to them. That’s not an easy thing to do. It’s personal and unfair and NOT very Christmas-y at all.
But if I think about what happened in the manger, that’s exactly what did Jesus did for us.
For He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
Luke 6:35 (NLT)
And isn’t that what we want this Advent season, to prepare our hearts to focus on Jesus and live more like Him, so others can see the difference Christmas really makes?
I think about our new donut-baking, Gospel-spreading friend. How the light he shines is bright, like the star leading the way to the manger, moving over all parts of the world to lead people to Jesus. It made me want to do the same: to free up my heart to really love so others could be loved.
Take a moment and ask God who it is you need to not only forgive but love. The Holy Spirit will help you. Shocked by such grace, your enemy may finally ask where that grace comes from and look to Jesus to receive the love they need so desperately.
The path to the manger, to praise the newborn King of all Kings, is the beginning of forgiveness for you and from you. Choose to forgive so you can be free — free to receive more of God’s love and free to love your enemies.
Choose to forgive so you can be free — free to receive more of God’s love and free to love your enemies. - Stephanie Bryant: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
It is truly God’s grace that enables people like Lang to send funds to proclaim the Gospel to those who tortured him, or for people to minister to drunk drivers who killed their loved ones, etc. I think of the extremists who surround the Christians at our school in the Middle East and torture them and have been opening my heart as to how to minister to people who maim and kill in the name of their God. I also know that one can love and forgive others and they continue to mistreat you….it could be a spouse, adult children, people who used to be friends. I do believe there is a point, wherein to guard our hearts and not let others treat God’s precious child as worthless, that there is a time and place to set boundaries or remove yourself from the situation. Loving and forgiving does not equate to making yourself a doormat for others to wipe their feet upon. Thank you for pointing that out, Stephanie. May God grant us all the wisdom and may we be open to His nudgings on this important precept. Great post!
Michele Morin says
I would have loved to have overheard that Sunday morning conversation. I’m sure the aroma of grace was just as powerful in the air and just as sweet as Lang’s delicious donuts.
Amen! What an amazing and selfless act Laing does. I’ve just returned from Cambodia so this story has come alive for me. Great post! God is amazing I too want to fashion myself on his image so that others too will ask & be encouraged to join the family in Christ we have, his love and compassion and protection in our lives.
Beth Williams says
There is so much divisiveness & hatred in our world today. Everyone is doing what they want & not caring about each other. We all need hearts like Lang’s. A heart that cares for the less fortunate or those who have treated us wrongly. William Bowen has a quote “hurt people hurt people.” He goes on to say we should have compassion on those people. A “keen awareness of the suffering of another coupled with a desire to see it relieved.” People hurt others as a result of their own inner strife and pain. People are a product of their upbringing or religion. We should shine some of God’s light & love into their darkened world. A lot of people in this world have never heard the gospel & don’t have any idea of God’s redemptive love. It is time we started showing this to them. Let’s set aside all differences/hatred & start loving like Jesus.
Your story, Lang’s story are a blessing…In order to be free we forgive. We are then reflecting God’s love, not condoning hurt, or deceit inflicted upon us.
Thank-you for sharing this touching reminder of 70 x 7
I hope that you all have a blessed day,
Pearl Allard says
Stephanie, you’re right – not a typical Christmas message but so appropriately Christmas! I just read an article last night a friend wrote about forgiving the man that murdered her sister and visiting this man in jail to tell him she forgave him…so powerful. It’s only God’s power that can empower us to live like that! Oh, and by the way – the donut part of your story sounded fun, spontaneous, and delicious! What a beautiful sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading!
When you forgive someone, you are doing it for you and not the other person. I truly believe in this. I remember when my husband and I first got married, his parents did not welcomed me or the idea that he was going to marry someone like me. They wanted him to marry someone else and for the first decade of our marriage, his parents did not attend the majority of our events, birthdays for our kids, Thanksgiving gathering, Christmas. It was hard to understand and it was during this time that I also learned that when dealing with difficult people, they teach you everything that you do not want to become. It was when I begin to ask God to change my heart instead of asking Him why they won’t change, the prayers were answered. Over two decades now, no one would ever believe that his parents did not like me once. Thankful for this reminder.
Wow sister! So much courage! Thank you for this idea – asking God to change my heart. Yes. I’m struggling to love those who hurt me and this is sooooo timely. (And thank you Stephanie for this!) xo
Diane Thiel says
God is so mighty that through the hate in this world shines the bright light of His son. Thank you sister. What a gift to share with all and telling langs story gives me courage and pause to hear His mighty voice of mercy. Gods blessings on you and yours.
Sallye Trobaugh says
At a time of year when family emotions and hurts can be so intense, this is a penetrating message on a local scale. Thank you. At a time in life when world events and views, news, political correctness, as well as, all the ways we find to divide ourselves from each other, I needed to read this. In a time when God keeps whispering to me, there are more of us (His children who are aware and love Him), than there are of those who do not know him, these words are profound. Thank you.
K Ann Guinn says
Wow! Thanks for this challenging word that speaks the truth of the Christmas message.
Becky Keife says
Stephanie, I love how God stirred your spirit to go get donuts but really had a plan to offer you the sweetness of bearing witness to the power of intentional love and forgiveness. I want to listen to and follow the Spirit like this. I want to be like Lang and his wife, taking every opportunity to be bold and generous for the sake of the gospel — that others might know God’s grace too. xx
Mary E says
Thank you so much! I needed this right now, as a family member is coming to visit for Christmas and the last time we saw each other was, well, the very last straw. I think I need to read James 3 constantly for the next week!
Rebecca Jones says
So many have had such hard times, we here in America are so blessed. Merry Christmas.