Jonathan's Perspective  

Jul 10

'The Tough Business of Being a Christian'

"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:35-36)

One of the hardest things that Jesus asks of us is to love our enemies.  It is precisely the people that have slighted, bullied, frustrated, or been mean to us that we don't have the least bit of desire to love.  We want to be nice to those who are nice to us.  We are willing to go the extra mile for someone who has gone the extra mile for us.  But being nice, praying for, and lending to someone who is difficult, insensitive, and irresponsible is darn near impossible. 

How many times do you get angry when watching the news, or having an office spat, or family members tweaking you?  I have to admit that impatience and anger are my go-to way too often.  Then I want to position myself in opposition to the person, try to change their mind, or try to make them bend to my will.  In other words, I see them as my enemy and am not acting in a loving way.  While we know our natural impulse is negative, we are commanded by Jesus to do the exact opposite.  Here are a few ways in which we can live into Jesus' calling:

First, remember that the farther things are away from us - e.g. international, national, and state news - the more ignorant we are about the intricacies and motivations of the people we are angry at.  In our ignorance, we hurl insults and play the armchair critic.  What if we, instead of getting angry and insulting, used that energy and time to pray for the leaders involved?  While we may not see direct or immediate results, God responds with delight in us and moves within the complexities of the situation.  Trust God with your enemies.

Second, we can be more grace-filled toward those we actually engage in life and have a chance to influence them.  So many times we act and speak in a way that gives us the opposite effect of what we want.  When we demand something of the person, they dig in against us.  When we try to manipulate the person, we lose trust and respect.  However, when we think about what it would really take to develop a positive outcome in a mutually beneficial way, we are beginning to think like Jesus and love our enemies.  The simple acts of listening, asking clarifying questions, giving the benefit of the doubt, and valuing the other's opinions are ways in which we can show love and mercy.

Finally, and most importantly, we want to reflect well on our God.  You and I are the closest connection with Christ and His church that many people know.  How we act around them tells them about who God is and what it means to follow Christ.  The most powerful impact that we can make is demonstrating the mercy of God.  One of our main jobs is to make God look great.  When you think about it, that shouldn't be very hard.  God IS great!  However, sometimes our interactions don't reflect that.  Just remember what God has done for you - the joy and release that comes through forgiveness, the restored relationship by the Holy Spirit working in you, the peace that is not dependent on our circumstances.  

The next time we engage someone who is our 'enemy', we can remember how God came to us when we were God's enemies.  The same love displayed towards us should flow through us to everyone.  "Then ...you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." (Luke 6:36)

We have been blessed to be a blessing.  We have been loved so that we can love.  We have been shown mercy so we can be merciful.  Give thanks for all that God has done in your life so you can demonstrate his goodness to those around you, even your 'enemies'. 

Seeking Life that is Truly Life,

Jonathan

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