Easier said than done, in my humble opinion! What I find so interesting, is that we are presented with two specific "scenarios" in this section... two types of people that are seemingly difficult to love. In the first scenario, Chan looks at Luke 6:32-36:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
Is anyone else feeling a little conviction right about now? Well, just in case you're not, let's look at what Chan adds, in an effort to "help" us examine our own lives.
"We are commanded to love our enemies and to do good by them. Who are your enemies? Or in terms we can connect with better, who are the people you avoid or who avoid you? Who are the people who have hurt you or hurt your friend or hurt your kids? Are you willing to do good to those people? To reach out to them?" (emphasis added)
In the passage above, I emphasized the part that I REALLY struggle with. I'm pretty "old school" in my philosophy. I was brought up believing "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." But, for me, I have to take it a step further... and those that know me, understand why. I have a very difficult time holding my tongue. I speak my mind. Period. In an effort to "keep the peace" I avoid those that really tick me off, so to speak. So... you might be wondering: "How's that workin' for ya?" Well, truth be told, it works pretty well with "keeping the peace" outwardly... but it definitely doesn't keep the peace in my heart. In fact, it's just the opposite. The more I avoid, the more incredulous I become. There's one case in particular where I've become so incredibly bitter and resentful that the mere thought of this person makes my blood boil... not exactly what God intended, huh? I don't talk to her on the phone and I'm cordial in person, but, oh my, how this woman gets under my skin... to the point that it literally effects my blood pressure! Can anyone relate?
In the other scenario, Chan references Luke 14:12-14:
"Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
This pretty much cuts directly to the chase. Last night, my husband and I sat on the couch talking about how this Scripture fits into our lives. (It should be noted that we don't have a lot of dinner parties... maybe 5 since we've moved into our house over 5 years ago!) But, the point being made here is that when we look around to the people we surround ourselves with, those we chose to spend out time with... whom do we see? People like us... the same socio-economical background? Or, are we befriending those that have less... those that could never return the kindness and generosity that we are capable of bestowing upon them?
There's a lot to ponder here. I wish I could pass along some words of wisdom to help or encourage you, but alas, I find myself needing those words of wisdom and encouragement myself! But, of this I am quite certain: God has the power to change our hearts. We can try with all our might to "will ourselves" to change... (I'm not sure about you, but for me, that never works out the way I want it!) It might work for a while, but I always find it exhausting. The reason, plain and simple, is that it's an act. In these situations, my heart was never changed, I was just putting on a good show, in an effort to keep the peace... to afford myself the luxury of patting myself on the back after an exhausting visit. But, at the end of the day, my heart still holds resentment, bitterness, anger and hostility. Only God can delivering me from the grips of those things. I've been holding on to those things for years... and the longer I hold on to them, the stronger they grip my heart. The ONLY thing capable of prying loose those strongholds is His gentle hand!
Spend some time in prayer asking Him to reveal any "enemies" you might have... to prick your heart when it comes to those you are avoiding. Maybe you've avoided them so often that you've completely forgotten about them! Also ask Him to open your heart to the possibility and desire to befriend those that are less fortunate... if you're not already doing so. See what God reveals in the days ahead... and don't be surprised if he puts a new face in your path!