We all have those people in our lives who challenge us, who rub us the wrong way, whose toxicity is infectious. When you get off the phone or walk away from them you feel dirty, angry, and stressed. You replay the comments they made and how they made you feel. Try as you might, you can’t resist the worst parts of you coming out.
What do you do when that happens? Do you walk away? Cut off the relationship and protect yourself? What if you can’t? What if it is a boss, a family member, or a friend?
In the book of Matthew, Jesus preaches the best sermon (yup, the best) about loving your enemies. The Message is one of the best translations of this passage because it gets at the heart of it:
“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. (Matt 5:43-46, emphasis mine)
Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst
I don’t know about you, but this statement was eye opening. When you encounter someone who is unloving, angry, spiteful, etc., the worst wants to come out of you. You want to match their negativity with your own or you want to ignore them and push them away; however, what if we didn’t do that and let them bring out the best in us?
What if instead we prayed for them? What if instead we gave them grace? What if instead we could look at the pain they are causing in us as a sign of the pain they are feeling? Hurt people hurt people. Our enemies and loved ones are hurting — we live in a fallen world — we all need Jesus, we all need His Love, and His Grace. What if love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) was given instead?
Jesus continued in his sermon,
“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 5:48)
As a Christian, I am called to be different — to be my God-created identity. When you become a citizen of a nation, when you get married and take your spouse’s name or join their family, there are a set of guidelines, rules, cultural parameters that you follow. When you become a Christian you are adopted into the family of God, you are the son or daughter of God, your citizenship changes, and how and who you love changes too. In a sense, you grow up, you live generously and graciously toward others because God is generous and gracious toward you.