Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 10: Grow Up

"‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,* what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." 
-Matthew 5:43-48

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – To be honest, every time I read this, I think, “This is insane. How in the world are we supposed to do this?” It almost seems like it goes against the laws of nature. Typically if someone mistreats you or does you wrong, your immediate reaction is not to love them. It’s actually quite the opposite. You want to write them off, you want to make them feel the same way that they made you feel. That’s just the natural reaction.

The thing is, maybe they do not “deserve” for you to treat them well. But that’s the beauty of grace – God’s grace. God is asking us to treat others not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated. He wants us to show them the kind of grace that he showed us. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” – God loves everyone. It’s plain and simple. He treats everyone the same, regardless of who you are or what you have done.

What I think is most fascinating about this passage is that he continues to say, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?”

This is something that I think we are all guilty of. Of course it’s easy to love people who love us – it’s easy! But the question is, what good are we doing here?  Yes, we are loving our neighbor, but we are only loving our kind neighbors.

God is giving us a challenge. I believe he knows that loving our “enemies” or people that treat us wrong is one of the hardest things to do, and at times may even seem impossible. But I think this is one of the greatest challenges, and I especially love a good challenge.

For me right now, I find this especially relevant. Being a teacher of kids that are 15 and 16 years old, I find it especially difficult to treat everyone the same, regardless of how good or bad they behave. Don’t get me wrong, some kids are absolutely wonderful and I just want to call their parents up and tell them that they have the greatest and coolest kid. But there are also days where there is so much chaos and insanity in the classroom that I feel like I’m just going to lose my mind. But as a great teacher once told me, “They’re going to misbehave. They’re going to make you crazy. But no matter what they do, love them anyway.” That just blows me away every time.  And this is what I think God is asking us to do. There are going to be days where someone just tears you apart, and I’m pretty sure the last thing you want to say is, “You know what? I love you anyway.” But that’s the challenge. God is asking us to love them anyway.

It all comes back to the last line, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

Okay, now this is crazy. We all know that humans are imperfect, no matter how hard we try to be perfect. But wow, what a great goal to have! God is setting the bar pretty high for us, and that is the coolest part. We have this super ambitious goal to reach, and every single day we should consciously try to make baby steps to be as gracious as our Father.

I know that for me, this transition certainly won’t happen over night. I don’t think I’m going to wake up in the morning and immediately feel an overwhelming love for my enemies. But I’m willing to accept the challenge, and I am aware that there will be days that I make steps forward, and days that I might even take a step back. But I’m ready for this goal, especially during the season of Lent. I have always been a firm believer in taking something on during Lent, so I hope y’all will join me in taking on this challenge!

I want to leave you with an interesting interpretation of the last line (Matthew 5:48) that I found in “The Message”.

“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.”

So maybe saying “grow up” is a little harsh. But I think it’s pretty cool that is says, “You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it.” It’s an ambitious life-style, but I’ll surely give it a go!

Rachel Carter is 22 years old and from the Diocese of East Carolina. 
She is currently serving in Panama City, Panama. She is teaching 
World History for 9th and 10th grade at St. Christopher's Episcopal School in Panama.

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