This blog is a response to Ron who responded to the blog I wrote a couple of days ago, “On Divisive Talk.” I decided to post my response as a blog because I want to share my thoughts with others who may visit my blog now and then. Before you read this you might want to read the blog and Ron’s comments as well. They are honest and his struggle is easy for me to identify with.
I too bristle over things people do that turns out to be harmful to others, whether it affects me personally or those that I care about. What keeps me from allowing myself to rush too quickly to blame and anger is Jesus’ teachings about loving my enemy and forgiving those who harm me. Here is what Luke reports him saying: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) He does make a few suggestions after that about how to treat one’s enemies but first, I think, he is talking about our inner response, our attitude. Jesus doesn’t mention in this passage anything about conditions or outcomes. He doesn’t say, “Love your enemy if he admits he is wrong” or even, “…if he mends his ways.” I think Jesus is saying that love is the character of one who lives in the kingdom, which, by the way, he says is within us. I find this is pretty much impossible, but I have found that once I made a choice, that is, became willing to love in the way Jesus suggests, something began to work in me. Slow progress, let me tell you, but I can say that I am a more loving, forgiving person today than I was in the past, even than yesterday.
There have been models. Frances of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Theresa are a few. I have read about them and admire the ways they found to apply Jesus’ teachings in the real world.
Buddhists suggest that we can have compassion for those who do harm to others by understanding that they act out of ignorance. It is possible that the person doesn’t connect with those that they harm; they cannot identify with the pain they are experiencing. These people may see those that are being harmed as “they”. And the “they” to which they refer may be you or me. Or it may be a person I care deeply about. Jesus made an unbelievable statement on the cross: “Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.” It seems like he was doing exactly what Buddhists suggest.
This is hard stuff for me to apply. But I try to stay at it as best I can. Sometimes it is humbling. It is realizing the three fingers pointing back at me as I point out the evils I see in others. It is facing up to the plank in my own eye when I try to expose the sticks in another’s. When I witness others loving and forgiving, it sort of makes me wonder if I am capable of such. Do you remember the story of the Quakers whose children were attacked in their school ending in loss of their lives? Almost immediately, there was talk of love and forgiveness. They truly believed that this is what Jesus was asking of them.
My original blog was about use of divisive, judging words. Refraining from using such words doesn’t necessarily reflect a forgiving heart but at least it may help keep judgment and condemnation from spreading. And in my life, I have come to realize the truth in such statements as, “Fake it till you make it,” and “Act and your feelings will follow.”