Last week, in my meditations on the Sermon on the Mount, I started reading these words of Jesus:
“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 children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” - Matthew 5:43-45
This is one of my favorite teachings in the Bible, though I don’t know that I am especially good at following it. What really struck me as I pondered these words this time around was the reasoning Jesus gives for why we should love our enemies - because in this way, we will be like God, who gives sunlight and rain to everyone without distinction. One wonderful thing about God is that God is always himself. God doesn’t shine the sun only on people God especially likes. God doesn’t send rain when we are good and withhold it when we are bad. God does the good things God does because of who God is and not because of what anyone else does. God is love, and so God loves. Here Jesus invites us to be like God in this consistency of character - to always act out of who we are rather than being blown about by circumstances and the behavior of others. This really helps me to understand why Jesus might ask us to love people who hate us or hurt us. When we do this, we remain unshaken in our own identity as children and imitators of God rather than being imitators of the world around us.
I’ve been praying over the past week that the Spirit would help me to always act and speak from who I am in Christ. I shared a few weeks ago that I was working on staying calm and being gracious as I was trying to figure out school situations for my kids. The good news here is that things seem to be going fairly smoothly now for all of them. But with regard to acting from who I am rather than from what others are doing, this is a great place to practice. Marriage is another great place to practice. Nothing can trigger strong emotions in me like feeling hurt in my relationship with my husband, and I am vulnerable to really letting my angry feelings fly. But, regardless of the situation, who I am in Jesus is kind, gracious, patient, and confident. And so I need to learn to be myself both in and out of conflict just as my Father is himself in all circumstances. In this way, regardless of what anyone else says or does, I will draw near to God. Here is a prayer for us this week.
Jesus, thank you for teaching us to live out of our identity as children of God and empowering us to do so by your Spirit. Help us not to be batted about by circumstances or by things other people do or say. Help us instead to be like the Father, who always loves because it is his nature to love. Let us love because his nature is also in us.
Love in Christ,