By Michael A. Verdicchio
In 1971, I played the top 20 hit, Walk a Mile in My Shoes, by Joe South, many times on my radio show. In the chorus, Joe sings, “Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes; oh, before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.”
When our kids were in school, I told them often, “Don’t be so quick to judge other kids that have an attitude problem. You don’t know what their home life is like; you don’t know what they are going through. Be loving and kind.”
I try to live my life aware that I don’t always understand why people act the way they do; I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Lord knows I’m not perfect, but I do my best to demonstrate God’s love and perhaps you do the same.
If you do, you know what it’s like when you’ve extended love over and over and over for a long period of time, only to be accused and criticized. In II Corinthians, the Apostle Paul said, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.”
So When Is Enough, Enough?
Are we just supposed to keep loving people even when their response back is hurtful and unkind, when they abuse, criticize and accuse? Do we stop? When is enough, enough?
I know love doesn’t mean compromising your principles. The Bible tells us nothing can separate us from God’s love, but that doesn’t mean certain things we may do are not still wrong in His eyes. Yet, He still loves us.
I also know if someone chooses to walk a path contrary to God’s Word, I can still love them, even though we no longer have a close relationship. I may dearly miss the close company with them, but their choices caused the chasm.
What Do I Do?
I still pray for them; that’s an act of love. I refuse to spread gossip about them to others; that’s an act of love. When I encounter them, I try my best to conduct myself with mercy, tenderness, and forgiveness; that’s living love.
There are those who insist we must administer reproof, pointing out the error. But to what end? “We must speak the Word,” some would say. But again, to what end? What’s the goal: speaking the Word, or restoring?
The greatest commandment is love. First love God, then love others as you love yourself. The Apostle Paul wrote, “all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Faith, hope and love: the greatest of those three is love.
What To Speak; When To Speak
I do pray and look for an open door to speak God’s truth. I try, to the best of my ability, to do what God would have me do, and, speak what God would have me speak in each situation. And, if my motivation really is love, then I’m hoping for restoration, and not just trying to confront.
God can direct our steps so that we know when to back off, remain silent, speak up, get involved, etc. We cannot allow our emotions to direct our steps. Walking in His love is allowing Him to work in us and direct our steps.
There may even be times we simply excuse ourselves from the situation for a period of time. It may be more beneficial for the other person for us to regroup (before we choke somebody) but really so we can continue to walk in love toward them.
I’ve never choked anyone, but I’m still not perfect; I do work at getting better. I’ve lived long enough one would think that criticism and accusations wouldn’t still hurt, but they do. So I understand how frustrating it can be at times.
Something that has helped me over the years is the conversation Peter had with Jesus. He wanted to know just how many times he should have to forgive a brother that sinned against him – not a stranger, but his brother. Peter figured seven times ought to be plenty.
Jesus’ answer was short and undeniably powerful. He simply said, ” I say not unto you, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.” I did the math. That’s 490 times.
So if my brother, someone close to me, sins against me, even if it totals 490 times, I still need to forgive.
I know forgiving someone is always the right thing to do, regardless. It is a huge part of living the love of God. We forgive others even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us.
However, other actions, or non actions, differ with each person and each situation. Speaking and doing, or not speaking and not doing, we must, to the best of our ability, allow God to direct our steps so we can continue to love people.