Love the person front of you

Love the person front of you

December 12, 2019

December 12th Advent Devotion

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.—2 Peter 3:1-10

After recently moving to a suburb of a large metropolitan area, I began to feel discouraged and at times frightened by all the news about nearby criminal activity. It was hard to read about an armed robbery at a convenience store, a hit and run accident that injured a young child, or a group of thieves following a delivery truck to steal packages.

My first response was to pray for the victims of these area crimes. I could immediately identify with the fear of the store employee, grief of the child’s family, and the anger of those whose packages were taken.

However, the more I let my prayers be guided by the news stories, the more concern I developed for the perpetrators of these local crimes. I asked myself, “What circumstances would lead a neighbor of mine to choose such criminal acts?”

These words from 2 Peter remind me that God has been patient with my failings and deeply desires for all people to repent and come to faith in Christ. As grateful as I am that my sins have been forgiven, I am now feeling called to pray for criminals in my own community to experience a change of heart and a transformation of spirit.

I am also challenged to consider what part I might play in offering God’s love and forgiveness to the lost people I encounter daily. My local church encourages its members to “love the person in front of you.” This statement means accepting people as they are instead of judging them. I try to remember these challenging words when I encounter people whose actions appear to bring harm to others. Then I ask Jesus to help me love them as he already does.

Prayer: Loving and forgiving Christ, help us remember to pray for those who do not understand their need for repentance and forgiveness. Amen.

By: Rev. Beverly Marshall-Goodell