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Lying in bed one night, I was praying for my friend’s son, whom I love very dearly. He was wrongly convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. My anger nearly led me to pray for God's wrath to consume those at fault, but the Holy Spirit told me that love and forgiveness is what would transform the hearts of the judge, the prisoners, and the guards. God commanded us in Romans 12:17-19 (NIV),

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord."

The love of God is a transformative power that few of us truly understand. The other day, I was listening to a woman give her testimony. She spoke about a time when a gunman was in the back of her car. He was holding a gun to her head, threatening to blow her brains out. Her response to him was, “And every piece of me will still love you.” What she said paralyzed him, and the gun slipped out of his hand. The force of love rendered him helpless.

I had to forgive the man who molested me at 13. I had to forgive my father, who abandoned his girls and left us to be pilfered by men. I had to forgive my ex-husband for physical and verbal abuse. Forgiveness is a position and a stance. It is something that is given in advance. The greatest act of giving is for-giving. You forgive people long before they ever hurt you.

It is unfathomable how much God loves you—unconditionally. There is nothing you can do to make Him stop loving you, and because He loves you, He has empowered you to do the same. Many struggle with fear because we have not been made perfect in love. His love for us is perfect, boundless, mature, endless, and flawless (I John 4:18).

I have come to realize that sometimes my love for people has been false and conditional. I loved people if they did what I wanted and acted how I wanted them to. If they responded to my acts of kindness, I could love them. But if they ignored me, my love would be limited or withdrawn. I have also realized that my love for myself is conditional. I love myself when I live up to the high standards that I have set for myself. I have realized that the greatest hatred is self-hatred. But God does not love us that way. Nothing can separate us from His love and when we were still in sin, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Our love for Him is a choice. His love for us is an unchanging and timeless mandate.

The basic principle of love is that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. My prayer for myself is that God will teach me how to love the way He loves. The enemy can fake a lot of things. He can preach. He can prophesy. He can lay hands and work miracles, but the only thing he can't counterfeit is the love of God and the love we have for one another. Love means being kind and tender-hearted, and preferring others over yourself. Selfishness, egotistical pride, and arrogance are by-products of self-love. It was not the enemy that sent Jesus to the Cross, but love.

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