“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:43-48 (The Message)
These thoughts are the Message’s paraphrase of Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount. It was like an electric shock about the rules of morality in the disciples’ time, and perhaps this translation still sounds shocking to you today. People problems are inevitable, there are troubles around us and in us. The world is watching how we deal with them. If our heart is not right with God, we won’t deal rightly with people.
It cost Jesus to love us. Jesus gave his life. We have his example and others to watch and follow. Paul wrote very practical help in his letters to the Romans, Corinthians and Philippians. We, like Paul, have the choice every day to promote God’s love and his kingdom or not, to start a conflict, keep a conflict going, or end one. We, like Paul, can say as far as it depends on me, I will make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification (Romans 12:18). Whether we are the offender or the offended, we can take the initiative to make peace (Romans 14:19). Keep on loving others unconditionally like God loves you. Keep on heaping on kindness (Romans 12:20).
These moral teachings from Jesus are so lofty that we in our humanness find it impossible to attain them. They make us realize we need him. With our heart in the hands of the Holy Savior we are able to live in his way with the help of the Holy Spirit. We must depend on his grace and mercy to live out our God-created, God-given identities. Meditate on the words of this prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you about where and with whom these requests could apply.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Prayer by St Francis of Assisi
By Donna Burns