"Can you love God if you don't love your neighbor?" Jenny asked her small group.
It seemed like a simple question, but the lengthy pause suggested otherwise. Martha, a new believer, broke the silence. "I suppose the 'right' answer is we can't love God; but right now I feel like I love God, but I can't love my dad. He's hurt me too deeply."
Martha was daddy's little girl growing up. She could do no wrong in his eyes. And when her mother struggled with mental illnesses, her dad was her stability. But after college graduation everything changed.
While Martha was away at college, her dad lost his job. Money was tight. Martha considered returning a portion of the money her father had loaned her for tuition. But she couldn't imagine maintaining a job while she studied. While her father insinuated he needed the money, Martha clung to it and said she'd pay him back as soon as she graduated.
But Martha was unable to immediately pay back her father after she graduated, and her dad steamrolled her with a lawsuit. Though Martha told her dad she would pay him back once she found a secure job, he was unsatisfied. She never thought money could divide them, but it had. Ten years later, she felt no love for him and couldn't imagine ever loving him.
As Martha pondered whether or not her disdain for her father was prohibiting her from totally loving God, other group members shared their struggles to forgive and love stepmothers, sisters, co-workers, and best friends. Evidently, everyone had trouble loving their neighbors.
Jenny urged Martha to pray for a softened heart and for wisdom of how to love her father. The group prayed for Martha, and Martha prayed persistently ...