One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Romans 12. Look at the very last verse of this chapter:
Verse 21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The Message says: Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
This is the summary statement in a chapter full of actions that Paul encourages us to take as part of a life of transformed into Godly discipline. Some are easy. Verse 13: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” I can do that. Verse 15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” Yep! That’s a piece of cake. “Mourn with those who mourn.” Yes, I can come along side someone and share their grief.
But what about the verse in between those two? Verse 14: “Bless your enemies. No cursing under your breath.”
Bless those who persecute me? Are you kidding me? I have had some people really treat me badly. We all have. And the text says to bless them? And if that isn’t enough, we can’t even grumble about them under our breath. No, we are to be pure in heart towards them.
Paul is actually mirroring words spoken by our Master. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus says: “Love your enemies. Bless those that curse you.” (Matthew 5)
Look at how The Message translates Matthew 5:43-48: “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.”
Then look how Jesus sums up this thought: “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, when we pray for our enemies, and those who have messed up our lives, Jesus says it causes us to grow up… to mature in the faith. I think what it says is this: “I’m gonna let God deal with this person, because if it were up to me and my self-centered spirit, I would want to make their life miserable.” What happens when your enemy finds out you’re trying to bless them? Many times, they drop their affront, don’t they? It changes their heart. But more importantly, it changes our heart as well.
There have been people in my life who have really offended me and I carried around the angst of that offense for years. It caused bitterness and a cancer-like growth of ugliness to take root in my heart. It would cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand up and my heart to beat faster when anyone mentioned their name. And the thing is, they had moved on. Forgotten about it. Never bothered them in the least.
So, as a lesson in living a transformed life, I can say with confidence that I have moved on as well. It is not easy. But it is a choice I can make. With God’s Holy Spirit in me and comforting me along the path, and my taking increasingly greater steps of prayer for them, I am “growing up” and maturing in the faith as Jesus encouraged.
May I encourage you to meditate on those who may have offended you, and offer a prayer for them. I know it may not be easy. As God works in His divine ways, it will actually be a blessing to you.
P.S. And if that person was me, please forgive me.