I generally enjoy reading the scriptures and find inspiration, and challenge, within its words. But occasionally there are times when Jesus has something to say to me that I really do not want to hear; like forgiving others. This morning, for instance, while reading through Luke I ran across the following.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 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. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.Luke 6:27-36 NIV
Who Is My Enemy?
I can never remember this passage smacking me quite so hard before. Yes, there have been people I have struggled with in my life, and even a small handful that have hurt me badly enough that I avoid them as much as possible. But for some reason I have never considered them as enemies and so have not applied this to them.
But that has recently changed with the realization that there are a few people around the edges of my life that I am at least treating as enemies, even though I have not given them that title before. And with that the pretense of ignorance is gone and I am faced with having to respond to Jesus’ words, directed straight at me. Will I love my enemies? Do good to them? Pray for them? Forgive them? Be merciful?
As much as it pains me to admit it, I don’t want to. I would much rather continue to pretend like they no longer exist. But I can’t do that. To do so would be to deny Jesus lordship in my life. Disobeying his voice would be to deny his authority over me. While to forgive would be to experience His forgiveness in my own life.
Regardless, I Am Called to Forgive
Does it matter that the harm they have done has not been directed specifically at me, but toward others that I care about, or to churches I have served in? Does it matter that they are happy and/or content with what they have done? Or have not repented of their actions? I wish it did. But I cannot see any exceptions in what Jesus says. And even see him applying this to the worst case scenario; to those who are currently directing their enmity against me.
And so I am praying for a change in heart; for an attitude of forgiveness; for a willingness to readmit them to my world. I know it will not be easy. But it is necessary if Jesus is truly to be my Lord.