Monday, December 20, 2010

A Tall Order

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven...Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." -- Matthew 5:43-45, 48

We all have them -- those relationships that make us just a little crazy and cause us to nearly lose our religion at times.  Often the very people who ruffle our feathers live in the same house with us, making it very difficult to remain civil and loving.  We try our best to model Christ's example of love and patience, but find ourselves succumbing to anger and taking on the very character attributes we oppose in the person who is so hard to live with!

God, "who reconciled us to himself through Christ," has given us more than a command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  He has also given us a "ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).  I'd call that a tall order, wouldn't you?  I can accept God's reconciliation of us through Christ and the ministry to which he has called us, but I have a difficult time not counting my enemy's sins against him.  But can we be effective ambassadors of Christ if we don't extend the same kind of grace and forgiveness to others that he extends to us? 

When my frustration level soars because the message of the Gospel doesn't get through or that difficult individual and I can't quite seem eye-to-eye, I have two options.  I can either stay in the battle and run the risk of compromising Christ's character by playing the game on the enemy's terms, or I can walk away, shake the dust off my feet (Matthew 10:14) and continue to pray for that individual.  I have to remind myself that the person I am having such difficulty loving is not the real enemy anyway.  Satan is.  And Satan loves nothing more than to take those people closest to us and use them to weaken our resolve to walk in godliness and be ministers of God's reconciliation.

If you have a relationship that is making you crazy because nothing you say or do is getting through, pray for that person and let God take control.  Shake the dust off your feet and go about the things that bring you joy and keep your focus where it should be -- on God himself.  We can allow the stress of bad relationships to consume us, or we can turn from them and run to the One who will never be abusive or unkind.  In his presence, we will find peace and the perspective we need to pray for that one whom God desires to reconcile.  Some of these challenging relationships are too big for us to handle, but they are never too big for our God.

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