You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—-the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—-to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:43-48, The Message
It’s been one of those weeks. Rich blessings, steady work, hand pies with my old roommates Wednesday night—but with a few mean-spirited people thrown in, too. Most mornings, you know what I’m fighting for in my heart? The ability to stop focusing on, and sinking into discouragement over, the mean-spirited people. Tim and I were talking about this yesterday—about the friends you can’t share good news with because they’ll be jealous, about the miserable people who spit out meanness because of how unhappy they are inside, about what interacting with unkindness and spite does to our own hearts (namely that seeing hatred in someone else always makes me see it in myself, and seeing that doesn’t feel good). You can eat ice cream while your heart is sorrowful, you guys. Don’t let anybody tell you different.
One of the most shocking things about Jesus when He was on earth was that He preached a message of being kind to your enemies. I read that quote above, from His famous “Sermon on the Mount,” as recorded in the fifth chapter of Matthew, and I think, He was and is not like anyone else. When you look at the things He taught, actually, He was always turning life upside down: Rejoice when you’re persecuted. Be glad to be small. Don’t worry about your life, even when it looks like there are things worth worrying about. Everything He teaches feels counterintuitive to my nature. When someone hates you for no good reason, love him anyway. Forgive him. Pray for him. Trust me. It all sounds well and good until I ask you a question and you freeze me out, or I tell you I love you and you say, So what? I don’t want to be mistreated. I don’t want to be hurt. But He was.
While Tim and I were falling asleep last night, curled up facing each other in our double bed, I whispered to Him, “I’m thankful we can trust what He’s doing, even when we’re disappointed.” He nodded his head. “And I’m thankful for a place to sleep tonight and for you to talk to.” He smiled the way that crinkles his eyes and makes me want to pinch his cheeks. Right there in the literal darkness, we did battle with the metaphorical darkness hovering over us the last few days. I am thankful to be in Nashville, to have a full fridge of food, to have steady work, to have the comfort of His Word. I am thankful He’s at work in what looks like disappointment. I am thankful He hears our prayers. I am thankful for dinner tonight. I am thankful for that vanilla ice cream and for how it tastes so good. As we spoke the gratitude, the feelings followed. As we fought to see Him, He assured us He is here.