Saturday, August 23, 2014

Loving Your Enemies

One of the most challenging commands of Jesus is the call to love our enemies.  What once seemed like a virtuous bit of moral sentimentalism or a religious ideal becomes utterly impossible in the wake of great betrayal.

Why does Jesus call us to love our enemies?  Is it just because He feels like it?  Well, I believe the reasons are manifold.  God loves His enemies.  Jesus, the Son, loved His enemies.  And we are called to follow Him. 

But even more practically, He calls us to love our enemies because it is good for us.  I don't mean it is good for us like it is good to run 10 miles every morning, as we peel the blisters off our feet and think about how such a strain promotes good health.  That may be true.  It does build character.  However, I believe He calls us to love our enemies because it frees us.

Hatred of our enemies -holding them hostage in our minds, wishing for their demise, and following ever strand of activity, demanding that it result in utter justice and the righteous downfall of our foe- imprisons us.  We become the punished.  The yoke of hating our enemies is a yoke that casts us to the ground, impedes our life, covers our light, and sours our soul.

But to look at your enemy and be able to let go of all outcomes concerning them, to be able to wish them well and to pray for them, frees the soul to enjoy and receive love and blessings from God and others.

"But how can I do so?  Look at what they have done to me, and what if they do it again?"  Well, don't misunderstand what it means.  Jesus still calls them our "enemies."  We love our enemies.  We do not pretend they are friends who are safe to encounter and allow within our borders.  It has to do with an attitude of the heart toward them, and it manifests itself in action.  But that action is wise action, informed action.  If there is a need to wisely protect ourselves and those we love, then so be it.  But our disposition can still be one of good will, letting go, non-competition, and peace toward them.

Bonhoeffer says you accomplish this when you see them for what they are... people whom Christ loves, for whom Christ died.  I would add one thing.  You accomplish this, as well, when you see how heavy the burden of hatred, bitterness, competitiveness, and tension is to carry.  When you are done carrying such a burden, then you see the peace found in letting them go as attractive.  Then, even when you feel the sting of watching them do what it is they do, you can let it go, entrust yourself to God, entrust yourself to the truth and to the knowledge that He will bring about a day when everything comes to light, let them go, and wish them peace.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shutting Out

Sometimes, I hate the world.  The unquantifiable grief and pain I feel for the things I have experienced in the past 15 years, alone, tempts me and calls me to a watery grave of isolation and burial -preferring to say, "@#$ you!" to the world, to shut myself out and refuse their entrance, even while knowing that it means a life of punishment and isolation and loneliness for me.  And it takes more than what it is in me to convince me to turn back and abandon my post in the tower of isolation.  It takes Christ in me.  It takes someone calling me forward.  It takes Christ in me calling me out and showing me how he bore with the world and did not shut it out.  It is there, with Him, that I see it is the smallest of people who matter most... who are most worthy of my heart and my light.  They don't live with all of the pretense of the world.  Children, the poor, the broken, etc.

But there is more.  While there are people out there who are dull and callous and who live on the pretenses of the world, there are also those out there who will receive the light and love I have.  There are those who see it and value it.  When I shut myself out from the world, I shut myself out from them.  And I lose out on love.  I lose out on them.

The best thing you can do for someone?  Receive their love and their pain.  You want to help someone rise from the ashes?  Love them but receive what they offer you, as well.  Receive the little pieces they give.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Peace with Others

"Peace" at the cost of your own soul is not peace but slavery.

The drive to have things go smoothly with a difficult person can be strong, but if you give up all of your convictions and values in the process, you have won nothing.  You have merely betrayed yourself in order to have them like you for a time.  And each time the challenge is put on the table, you will give up more of yourself until there is nothing left.  Compliance is a false peace.  But peace and truth and mutuality are friends.

This does not mean we should seek discord, but it does mean that we must swallow the difficult reality that we must press on toward what is right and true and bear the consequences of doing so.  There is a cost in both cases, in self-betrayal and in staying true, but only in staying true do we stay free as God intended and eventually reap a reward.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, "If at all possible, live at peace with all men."  Sometimes it is possible.  Other times it is not.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

All Men are But Grass...

A voice says, “Cry!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
    and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever. (from Isaiah 40)


No matter what you've gone through, no matter what injustices you have suffered from the hands of others or witnessed by others, no matter how lofty those people may seem for a moment, they are all like grass.  Their "glory" blows away and dries up.  But God's word -His promises, His purposes to redeem and make everything right- stands forever.

There are two responses we can find ourselves in with regards to this:

We can camp in place, dig our heels in, pout, and demand of God, "I will not move until you do something about my situation right now!  I demand that you address these injustices immediately, or I will not follow you, I will not trust you, and I will certainly not leave this stump I'm sitting on!"  It's all on our terms.  And in that, we whither and die.  We turn against God, and yet we believe that He has turned against us because He does not operate on our terms.

Or we can finally give up our demand for control and come to the place where we say, "Oh God, their glory is their shame.  Their strength is weakness and it stands for but a time.  We are all like grass, blown away in the wind of your breath.  But there is a time when you will make it all right.  Your purposes will stand.  And until that day, I will follow you.  I will follow and trust that you have something more and something new for me.  I will trust that following you will make it all worthwhile.  Here I am, Lord.  I follow."

One is death. One is life.