43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.
To me, life seems more polarized than ever before, especially when people on both sides of a problem blame “the other” as being at fault. I also think of the personal difficulties that can define our lives, whether these challenges are planned or not. Even when our lives are momentarily quiet, we only need to turn on the news for a minute to hear about another’s plight.
Perhaps it is human nature to accept our own difficulties through explanation while judging another’s situation as unworthy. I think it is even easier to say this about other family, neighbors, and most especially for those we think of as enemies. But if we just make the other person sound different, or crazy (or insert your own negative word here), then we elevate ourselves as Children of God, while somehow deem another Child of God as unworthy. Even if we do not speak ill, we must remember that all at part of God’s family and therefore deserving of the same selfless love and support that has been offered to us.
As humans we accept that we don’t always give our enemies the same selfless love and care that we afford our loved-ones, but as Christians, we must accept that this is our responsibility. So then what if being a Christian means responding by selflessly offering God’s love to all because that’s what’s been done for us? Surely it is not easy to love “the other” so selflessly, but that is what they deserve. Recently, I felt personally challenged by this, when I saw my loved one support someone that I didn’t really like or agree with, by offering them a hand-out. Although I was praying for that other person, my family member is the one who reached out and gave a hand-up. When I asked about this, my loved one said that they felt something different. In reality, I was praying for the other person and felt called to support, yet I did not trust God’s message to make it a divinely inspiring action. Fortunately, my loved one did.
We cannot know when our support becomes a hand-up for someone, but only that God gifts are meant to be shared through prayer, listening and inspired actions on our part. When we connect daily to the Holy One, we will have to trust that when called into action, our responses change lives. We may not always know how, but perhaps our thinking and actions toward others were what really needed changing in the first place. Therefore with prayer, trust your instincts to God’s love and act on that! It is through God’s grace that we have that blessing to share anyway.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Think about how we pray/gift those within our community versus someone who is “the other.” Since we are all part of God’s family, how might this inspire you to act differently? Think of someone with whom you disagree. What gift of daily prayer might you offer as love and/or support? Better yet, like me, how might God change your heart so that you see them differently?