A few weeks ago, we talked about patience. I shared at that time that my wife has this theory that you need to be careful when you pray for patience. She is convinced that the SECOND you do that…God will provide you with LOTS of opportunity to test your patience! I find that to be ALL too true!
Well, it dawns on me that the same mentality that applies THERE also applies HERE, to our topic for the day. Does this ever happen to you? You say, either in your head or out loud, “Good golly- I can’t STAND being around that person! They just drive me absolutely CRAZY!” And seemingly within MINUTES, “that person” will be RIGHT THERE! You then will have repeated opportunities to be around that person- it seems the more you dislike them the more they will be placed in your path!
There was a person at a previous church who simply couldn’t tell the difference between me and the WORST idea they had EVER heard! It didn’t seem to matter what I did- they were A. not going to like it and B. be rather outspoken in their opposition! And while I can usually find the redeeming qualities in just about anybody- I can get ALONG with pretty much everybody- that particular person was, shall we say, a tough nut to crack!
I finally got to the point where I simply tried to avoid them. They couldn’t stand me. I had enough of their negative attitude- especially based on the fact that it seemed to ALWAYS be aimed at me! And I said, to myself, “I don’t even like being AROUND that person!” And that’s when it started. Pretty much immediately! I would round a corner at the local grocery store- there they were. We would go out to dinner- there they were. This person seemed to be lurking behind every rock and tree I passed! One day, I finally looked heavenward and said, out loud, “OK God- I get it!”
A recap- in 590AD, Pope Gregory defined the 7 Deadly Sins as lust, wrath, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy and pride. He added a counter-balancing set of values that we should adopt- they’ve become known as the 7 Heavenly Virtues. We’re in the middle of 7 weeks of wading through these lists in an effort to identify and celebrate our own strengths as well as name areas of our lives that perhaps need more attention.
Week 1, we started with a challenging virtue- chastity, the counter-balance to the sin of lust. Week 2, we looked at another challenging virtue- patience- the counter-balance to wrath. Week 3, we considered temperance, which is the counter-balance to gluttony. Week 4, we talked about charity, the counter-balance to greed. Last week, we moved to persistence, which is the counter-balance of sloth. Today, we consider kindness, which is the counter-balance to envy. That all leads to today’s main Scripture:
Luke 6:32-36 If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Jesus has spent the night on a mountain, praying. Then He calls His followers together and chooses from them His 12 disciples. He takes them out among the people and a large crowd gathers. Jesus then does what He basically always does in those settings- He begins to teach them. Today’s reading is a part of that teaching.
And what He has to say is pretty powerful stuff. He challenges those in attendance right off the bat. He says, “So, you love the people who already love you. Big whoop! Who DOESN’T do that? Even sinners do that! Oh, you do good to people who have already done good for you. Wow! You major humanitarian you! Sinners do that, too. Wait, you offer help to those from whom you expect something in return? Oh well, isn’t that special?! Yeah- sinners do that, too. Check!”
Now that He’s set the stage- so to speak- He then goes on to get to the real meat of what He’s saying. And what IS that? What’s the main salient point of this passage? It’s pretty basic and direct. Simple. Simple…but NOT easy! And here it is- “Love your enemies.” Boom. There you go. No frills. No fancy terminology. No beating around the bush. Love. Your. Enemies. Frankly, there’s really NO way to spin that or twist it to fit what you want it to mean. It says what it says- love your enemies.
Jesus says we should do good simply to because it’s the right thing to do- NOT because we expect something in return. He says if you do that, your reward will be great. You will truly be a “son of the Most High”- a child of God.
So, how does all of this play out in “real time”? It’s one thing to read about it in the Bible and think on it as an intellectual exercise. It is quite another thing to actually live it out in your day-to-day life. Simple…but NOT easy. Have you ever sent someone something- a gift of some kind perhaps- and 10 days later contacted them to say, “Did you GET what I sent you? I hadn’t heard anything…and just wanted to make sure you got it!”
The question begs itself- did you REALLY simply wonder if it got where it was going? OR, were you offended that you did this nice thing and got nothing in return? No phone call. No “thank you” note. Zip. Zero. Nada. In the end, only you know the answer to that question. But it seems to me that, if you feel the overwhelming urge to contact the person you did the nice for and point out that you got no acknowledgement from them, you MAY have the wrong motives working.
Do you ever find yourself thinking, “I can’t STAND that person” and then go out of your way to avoid them, perhaps even talk bad about them or whine and complain about them? I hate to say it but, according to today’s Scripture passage…you’re part of the problem, NOT the solution. And trust me- I KNOW that’s hard to hear. But again, there’s imply NO way to misinterpret or spin this passage.
We each need to examine our lives. Look at your interactions and, perhaps more importantly, your thoughts over the past week. Do you expect something in return for any perceived kindness you may show? Do you complain and gossip about people that you don’t like, people who don’t like you? Do you see someone on the road or read about someone in the newspaper and think, “What an IDIOT!” Are you quick to judge someone, labeling them with words like “loser” or “jerk” or whatever other derogatory term comes to your mind…and your lips…and the moment?
When that happens- and please note the use of the word “when”. We are humans. If we’re honest, we ALL do that sometimes. So, WHEN you do that, stop. Remember this passage. Remind yourself that you have not walked ONE STEP in their shoes, let alone a mile. You DON’T know how they feel. You DON’T know what they’ve been through or what motivates their behavior. But you DO know what Jesus calls YOU to do. Simple…but NOT easy. Love your enemies. Do good simply for the sake of doing good and NOT because you expect something…anything…in return. If you do that, you will be considered, in the eyes of God, His child. I am proud to be the child of Richard and Dorothy Harris. I want to be even MORE proud of having the title “child of God”! What about you?