When you stop to count your blessings, do not forget to give God a big thank you to for all the difficult people in your life. They are bursting with the potential to bless you, but it all depends on whether you respond with love and mercy, or you can get angry and lash out.
This is perhaps the greatest challenge of being Christian; hatred in, love out. The Golden Rule is: “Do unto others whatever you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). The Our Father states: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” These are directives from Jesus himself, but I’ve seen Christians brush them aside when they find themselves on the receiving end of hostility.
“I don’t have to forgive my mother-in-law because she is not saying she is sorry,” someone once told me. “God forgives me when I ask for it and I’ll forgive her when she asks for it.”
And yet, to avoid tripping into loopholes, Christ reinforced his teachings to us. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 26:40).
Because the above passage in Matthew is talking about doing things for others, but did Jesus really mean to take away our right to strike back at the rude and inconsiderate or even such people as idiot drivers? It would seem so.
“When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well” (Matthew 5:39). But the idiot driver did not strike me on the cheek, he cut me off and could have killed us both. There is no clause that allow for road rage. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).
We must look to Jesus for a clear example to know he meant exactly what he said. After being arrested, beaten and hung on a cross, Jesus responded with love, not revenge. If we were writing the script, most of us would have had the earth swallow up the soldiers and persecutors. Instead, Jesus responded by praying: ”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
It’s not natural to give love to those who hurt us, but it’s supernatural—and Scripture doubles down in it as the key to holiness.
“If I give away everything I own and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). That is why, instead of grumbling, we need to show love, compassion and an abundance of mercy. We cannot always muster up those feelings but praying for them and having the intention to love and carry us through.
Jesus gave us incentive. “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Luke 6:38). And in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10 we are told, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Such a deal! If we show mercy to others, God will show mercy to us. And if we show mercy to people who do not seem to deserve it, then we too will receive mercy that we don’t deserve.
That’s the ticket that propels me to forgiveness and inspires me to pray whenever someone does anything to make me feel bad. I can’t control them, and I don’t like to feel bad, but if we pray for them and our prayers are answered, they won’t be so awful. And part of the deal is that we are blessing ourselves in the process. It’s a win/win!
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