: the act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc.
: the act of bringing back something that existed before
: the act of returning something that was stolen or taken
God is in the business of restoration, of making broken things new again, and when I say restoration, I don’t mean on a gorgeous historical home, I mean He does this with us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Renovation projects have become quite the trend in recent years, from fixing up old furniture to entire homes, our culture has caught on to the beauty of redemption. I love doing projects like these, but I’m such an amateur compared to people who actually know about the history of pieces and the stories that they’d tell if they could talk. If I were a vintage piece needing my coat of lead paint removed, while still maintaining the integrity of my past, I definitely wouldn’t choose someone like myself to do the work, I’d want an expert in the craft.
It’s no wonder that Jesus is the master of mind-body-soul-restoration because He was the original creator of all things, He sustains all things and holds all things together by the word of His power. I don’t think “expert” even comes close to the depth to which He knows us, and yet still loves us. If we were to choose anyone to fix our tangled messes, heal the depth of our heartaches, and meet us in the midst of our brokenness, it would absolutely have to be Jesus.
Yet, we are reluctant to come in for a makeover. We hold too tightly to the lead paint, the toxic substance that is chipping away from our once promising appearance, and while we know there are better, shinier coats waiting to make us whole again, we’d rather hang on to the slivers of control that we still think we have.
When we finally welcome Him into our lives, arms wide open, full of hope, we let Him into the layers He already sees, and in total surrender, put Him on the throne of our hearts. When God takes His rightful place in our lives, then He can finally begin the restorative process that we’ve already made huge amateur messes of trying to fix by ourselves. Talk about a total DIY fail. As He chips away the old, familiar, toxic paint, things begin to change, we begin to blossom into new creations and this sends a ripple effect into our lives, and unavoidably into our relationships. It’s usually pretty messy, a beautiful collision of the Gospel with our sinfulness, along with the messes of others’, but thankfully He is committed to completing His masterful works of restoration art in each of us.
I’ve been reading in 1 John for a few weeks now, and God is doing that thing He does where He pieces together truth in His own sovereign timing to heal, to restore and to instruct me in how I should live. It is such a basic message, to love one another, but it’s this central call of our faith that we too often distort, add to, and take away from. We make exceptions. We get hurt. We pull away. We let our fear and insecurity trump love. And most of all, we miss out on the greatest intention of God for His children; that we would love one another, His love be perfected in us, and through it all, show the world that we are His.
There is so much I could share from 1 John, but I think chapter 4:15-21 really hones in two central truths that have radically altered my relationships lately, that 1.) God’s love is perfected in us when we love one another, and 2.) that His perfect love casts out our fear. These things stuck out to me beyond the more obvious reading and theme of 1 John, which is that we should love God and others because He first loved us, and that if we don’t love others, we may not know God. It makes sense to me- when we allow God’s perfect love to reign in our hearts and lives, it eradicates the fear that stems from our sin, and then we are able to truly love others. However, loving others is definitely no easy task, it’s absolutely a supernatural one, meaning we need God to do it through us. Look with me at this passage for a second with fresh eyes:
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:15-21
I can see so clearly from the text that if we hate someone, the love of God cannot be in us because the result of abiding in Christ and experiencing His forgiveness is an overflow of God’s love being poured out onto others. Realizing that God’s love being perfected in me cannot just stay between me and God, it has to be flushed-out among others, really struck a chord with me. When you break it down, I can see why; forgiving others continually drives us back to God, revealing our sin and need for Jesus, magnifying His love in our hearts, and as we experience His love and freedom from our sin, His perfect love casts out our fear of judgment, freeing up our ability to love others well. How can this reality-alterning, continual revelation of God’s love and grace NOT result in extravagant love towards others? And love without restraint? No wonder Jesus said that to love God and others sums up all of the law and commandments.
So these truths have been at work in my life and I think that is so important that I share about it because there’s no doubt that we all struggle in the area of love, believe it or not. When you really think about the fact that love originates from God only, and then you size up how much you’ve allowed God’s love to penetrate your heart today or in a certain relationship, its no wonder that we get ourselves into the situations and heart-attitudes that we do.
Just this month, God chose to put a few of my relationships on the path of redemptive, restorative work, involving some honest, brave conversations. However, while each situation was different, interestingly they all happened while I’ve been in 1 John. God has done such a beautiful work in each of our lives, our vulnerability has launched us into new, deeper seasons of friendship. It was refreshing to clear the air, there were tears, honesty, confessing of sin, asking for forgiveness, forgiving, being vulnerable, being heard, being truly loved, accepted, known, and realizing our common struggle of INSECURITY that was the root of many of our offensive and defensive behaviors. I later made the connection of how insecurity is just another form of fear stemming from not allowing God’s perfect love to penetrate our hearts, preventing us from truly love others well.
Could it really be that simple?
Yes. I think that love really is that simple, especially since Jesus made it so clear Himself. Unfortunately, I don’t always take God’s Word at face value. I make excuses to limit my outpouring of love, for example: they don’t reciprocate, I’m responding to cues that they don’t like me, they hurt my feelings, they trigger my insecurity, I feel uncomfortable putting myself out there, that would be weird for me to do/say (insert loving gesture), and so I don’t fully love because I have not interacted enough with my own personal need for God’s forgiveness and love today, and when I neglect that, I don’t give God the opportunity to melt away my fear by immersing myself in His love.
God’s Word is so rich, His commandments so pure and His providence in giving us Himself to carry it all out is so astounding. There aren’t words to adequately describe the God we get to actually know, serve and love. What a privilege it is that He makes beautiful works of restoration-art out of our messy lives, and that He lets us in on the artistry by enlisting us in the project- as we love others, His love is perfected in us.
So take the plunge with me, be reckless in your love for others, don’t squelch it or limit it, this is how God’s love is perfected in us! No one will ever receive the gift of love negatively because true love can only be found in God. (So we gotta ditch that self-sourced love and get it from the source, God!) God has also taught me so much about forgiveness and that it is a gift that He enables me to give to others. When we allow God into our mess, He is able to heal wounds much faster than our self-initiated, DIY efforts, resulting in real forgiveness that puts those relationships right into God’s skilled hands. I’d rather hand over all my projects to Him, wouldn’t you? All He wants us to focus on is the loving part, and He will take care of the finished product of restoration art in all of us.