Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time to pray for our enemies again...

You know what I hate? I was thinking today that we needed to do this, and I had a brilliant thought pop into my head, and now I don't remember it. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

Tonight in church, our pastor talked about loving others and that the result of God's love in us is loving others. He told a great story about a man who stayed with a wife who kept doing bad things because he wanted to show his kids the example of fatherly love. That no matter what we do, God does not abandon us. And he felt that if he abandoned his wife, what example would that be to his kids?

It really humbled me, because I don't think that I'd have that kind of strength.

I also began thinking in terms of loving my enemies, that maybe the reward of loving our enemies, of praying for them, isn't always going to be that one day, it'll all work out, and we'll be one big happy family. Instead, maybe it's more that it's the example we're giving to others of loving anyway.

I watched Joyce Meyer again today, and it was so interesting to hear her talk about how, as Christians, we have to watch how we portray ourselves, because you never know who is watching and using that to judge what being a Christian means. One of my personal pet topics, because I'm so sick of the negative stereotypical image of Christians.

Which occurred to me... by praying for our enemies, and sharing our love, what better way to show the world what it really means to have Christ in us by doing the unthinkable? To show our love, to pray, to do whatever it looks like to treat our enemies with grace, knowing that it will never be returned?

I wonder if that's a little of what God feels when He deals with some of us...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Roaches and other offensive creatures

As my regular blog readers know, I love Joyce Meyer. I've been watching her series on Managing Your Emotions . Today absolutely killed me.

See, I talk about praying for my enemies. I try so hard to try to make an effort to be loving toward those who aren't loving toward me. As I've mentioned, I regularly deal with a number of people who, for lack of better description, make my life miserable. I realized how much of it is me allowing them to make my life miserable. They probably neither know nor care that I spend hours obssessing over every slight, intentional and unintentional. And even though I try to turn the other cheek, I spend a lot of time being angry at them.

So there's my favorite roach people I like to gripe about. I seriously do everything I can to be kind to them, even though they treat me like a bug under their shoe (hence the name roach people). But there's still so much anger in my heart still. On one hand, I felt justified by the idea that you can be angry, but in your anger, you shouldn't sin. Because I'm not sinning. I'm just mad.

But a couple of gems smacked me right between the eyes and I've realized just how badly I need to re-adjust my thinking and my emotions. For whatever reason, I decided to go to the Greek on Matthew 5:22. Saying "Raca" to someone? Um, that's the modern day version of all my ranting about the idiots I have to deal with and calling them idiots. But before that, Joyce talked about the verses in 2 Timothy 2:23-24. The not resentful part really got me. And as I thought about it, I realized how resentful I am.

I resent the roaches in my life, the ones I constantly rant about being such idiots, who have no kindness or show any Christian love. I puff myself up because I at least can show them kindness and offer them love. But in remaining resentful, in ranting about what idiots they are, I have negated all of it.

I am a roach.

I have spoken so much in the pain and hurt and emotion of being mistreated by roaches. I have a friend who despises the roaches, not because she's met them, but because I've ranted about the roaches for so long, and how despite everything I've tried to do, they're still roaches. And because of the offense they've given me, she's angry on my behalf. A sign of true friendship, to be sure, but a sign that I am not nearly as mature of a Christian as I'd like to think I am.

It's one thing to pray for our enemies, but as Joyce pointed out in reference to Matthew 5:44, to bless someone means not to speak ill of them, to speak well of them. Can I truly pray for someone I speak ill of? I don't speak ill of them to their faces and certainly not to anyone I think might know them. But I rant day and night about what the roaches have said and done this time. And then I say, "but Lord, bless them."

I am a two-faced roach.

When we pray for our enemies, it's not just a matter of saying, "Lord, I lift this person up to you, or Lord, fix this situation, or Lord, bless this person." No. Somewhere in there, I also need the prayer, of "Lord, clean out all the bad feelings I have towards this person, and help me keep my big fat mouth shut."

Suddenly, I've realized, it's not enough to simply pray for my enemies. It's a good first step. But there's a greater depth involved than just passing on requests that the Lord already knows. It means that I must truly let go of the offense, and replace the resentment with the Lord. Sadly, I think it also means I'm going to have to work on removing some of my favorite words from my vocabulary.

It's a good thing I love a God that's stronger than my roachiest of roachness.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Enemies who won't be reconciled

Spent some time talking to our soon to be divorced friend. He wants so badly to be reconciled, and yet, all she wants is revenge. It's weird, advising someone to go through with a divorce, when I believe so strongly that divorce is a bad thing. But I know it's not safe or healthy for him to pursue a relationship that the other person does not want, and her only aim is to hurt him as much as possible.

I wonder, how does this fit into how we should be as Christians? I read so much about forgiveness and turning the other cheek. I'm of the opinion that you can forgive someone, but it doesn't mean you have to subject yourself to more pain. Or put yourself in danger. Ultimately, that ends up hurting the other person as well.

I told him, as we talked, that none of us knew what would happen down the road. It's not unheard of that divorced people end up finding their way back together. And maybe it'll give the Lord time to work on her heart, as well as his, and give them both the healing they need.

Ultimately, though, I know that there are always enemies who won't be reconciled, marriages that will stay forever broken. And in the end, the thing we have to remember and be accountable for is that we did everything we could to honor the Lord. You can forgive seventy times seven, but if they don't want your forgiveness, there is nothing you can do but give it to Jesus.

We've all got relationships that are in the "won't be reconciled" column. There is nothing that we ourselves can do about it, other than giving it to God to work in our hearts-as well as theirs. It doesn't give us license to mistreat the other party, but it also means that we do not have to flog a dead horse.