“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44-45
The other night I went to a meeting, and after everything had wrapped up I walked outside with a friend and listened to the multiple complaints she had against a couple of people, who we both knew, who had been doing things to shoot her and her ideas down. These people had hurt her greatly and she was very upset with how she was being treated. Just then, another man from the meeting approached us asking if we had seen one of these same man whom she had just started talking about. He was feeling hurt too because his concerns, which he had voiced at the meeting, had been shot down publicly at the meeting by this same difficult man. This other man's opinion was not acknowledged and he too was feeling hurt over how the whole situation had been handled.
As I listened to these two individuals talk about their issues regarding this particular man, who happened to be a neighbor of mine, I let them go on for a while but I finally interjected and said, “You know, that is just how he is. I have learned to just hear him out, respect him for his position but also know he looks at things in a limited manner, and then proceed with what I know needs to be done whether he agrees with me or not.” My friend then turned to me and said, “Then you have much more patience than I do.”
Maybe it is patience, maybe it is wisdom, or maybe it is love for another human despite his erred way of looking at the world. I know at times when I have spoken or emailed with this man, he really does not know what to think of me and he doesn't put too much merit in what I say or in where he feels I have the ability to succeed. But yet at the same time I find that his interest in my pursuits have not waned. I believe my life baffles him a bit and although he doesn't understand me, he is still intrigued by the way I live my life and how unique opportunities (those of course orchestrated by God) are often presented to me and work out in ways he were thought impossible accomplishments in the manner from which I was approaching them.
I came across this story below, one I had read many years ago, and thought of how much this snake resembled the man I was just talking about. I will let you read the story before I go on to wrap up with a few more verses.
“The story has been told of a man who, while hiking in a desert, stumbled upon a rattlesnake that had become hopelessly wedged between a boulder and some limbs from a fallen tree. The man decided to save the rattlesnake, but in the process the snake tried to bite him. The man tried to free the snake a second time. Again, the snake tried to bite the man. Finally, on the third attempt the man succeeded in freeing the snake. And still, the snake coiled and attempted to strike its liberator. The man’s companion, who had observed from a safe distance, asked the man why he continued to risk himself to free the snake. The man responded, 'The snake was attempting to strike because that is its nature. My nature is to love. Should I cease to love because the snake attempts to strike?'” Unknown
There are many ways those who do not know the love of Jesus can strike out at us and make us feel like just walking away from their spiritual terminal condition so they can suffer the fate they seem destined to fulfill – life away from God for eternity. But, as a follower of Christ we are instructed by our Lord, as He is recorded as saying in Matthew 5, to pray for these people, to bless them, and do good to them no matter what they do to us.
These same sentiments are given in the words penned by the writer of Romans:
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,'says the Lord. Therefore 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21
The wellspring of our actions is not to come from the person we are interacting with. Rather, we are to draw upon Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to act in direct opposition to the evil actions and words people demonstrate towards us. We cannot control the actions of others and God chooses not to control their actions either. Our only choice is to live as an example of His love. To turn our cheek and love anyways and then also not become prey to the ways of the wicked by acting wickedly in return.
If we act in accordance with the word of the Lord we will not be put to shame as our sinful nature that wants to return evil for evil would press upon us to believe. Living in love allows us to exult God as the true Judge and us as His ministers of peace and holiness in a world that will only see God if we are but willing to love without partiality.
Our goal is never justice as the sons and daughter of God. Holiness and living in a manner that desires to bring peace into every situation in our lives, whether is may be possible or not, is how we are called to live. It is by the strength of the Spirit that we can live in this way because on our own we are prone to not pursuing peace of any sort, instead we selfishly desire only war and division.
May the God of peace fill you with His peace today and from your life may you shine the love of God towards people that may not understand you, or who even oppose you, but will always remember you for the way you acted towards them in love.