This week as I continued to saunter through Luke 6, verse 27 jumped off the page. The Message put it this way, “Love your enemies, let them bring out the best in you, not the worst”.
Wow. Don’t let them bring out the worst … its my choice. Rather, let them bring out the best. Each of these confrontations is an opportunity for me to either react or to grow in patience, grace, kindness, tolerance, love, understanding, and forbearance.
Its human nature to want to avoid the difficult and painful at all costs, but to avoid the test is to deny myself the chance to grow by facing what I need to face.
My ‘enemy’ exposes the limitations of my love. They confront me with the extent of my demandingness and self-centredness and make me aware of how far I fall short.
I watched a fascinating video clip the other day about practise. If we practise worrying, we become really, really good at it and find an endless supply of things to worry about. If we practise anger, we’ll become really good at it and flare at the least little thing. If we practise gratitude we will become really, really good at it and discover a multitude of things to be thankful for.
Maybe that's what this verse is saying. Every time we let our ‘enemy’ bring out the best in us, there's an opportunity to go on growing in grace and love.
I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that these verses are all about restored relationship. That is the heart of God. If my focus is on moving towards the other person with the desire for restoration then the next three verses put some flesh on the bones.
"Bless those who curse you and pray for those who hurt you."
It's through genuine, heartfelt prayer for the other person's good, that my heart can be changed and healed, and the other person blessed.
" If someone slaps you on the face, offer the other cheek also."
I need to refuse to retaliate, it will only widen the chasm I'm trying to bridge. I need to be willing to be vulnerable and risk being hurt again if it will lead to reconciliation.
" If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also."
Rebuilding a relationship requires radical love, mercy and generosity. The generosity of spirit that's prepared to go more than half way or as far as is needed to bring restoration.
I think this is beyond forgiveness. I think about Elisabeth Elliot, who went beyond forgiveness to live amongst the Auca Indians who had murdered her husband and soulmate, the man she had hoped to spend the rest of her life with. In going to live amongst them she was risking all, to open a door for reconciliation and the opportunity to show them God's love.
And if I belong to Jesus then this needs to be the driving force for seeking to restore any relationship ... not so I will feel better ... but to demonstrate the love of God. My love will never be adequate ... only his love will suffice.