Day 10: Saturday, March 4, 2023
Rev. Sela Finau
Do The Difficult
Scripture: “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat, do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you, and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit: for each tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not gather figs from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramle blush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:27-45 NRSV)
Devotion: You are wondering why I included so much of the biblical texts. Why did I not just reference it? The truth is, you would probably not take the time to look up the passage. Or, for some of you, you may skip through the pasted Scripture text, thinking you already know what it says. Whom are we kidding? We all do that. But studying and meditating requires that we re-read and re-read God’s words many times over. Our understanding of Scripture may differ today from a year ago. It is not that Scripture has changed; it is we who have hopefully changed as we grow in faith and knowledge of God.
This passage is significant. Jesus said to love our enemies and to do good things for those who dislike or hate us. Essentially Jesus challenges us to be different, that is, to love like God. God is merciful and kind even to the wicked and ungrateful. Anyone can love their friends. But how do you treat someone well who has hurt you? How do you give without expectation of return? That’s love as God loves.
Similarly, Jesus said not to judge others but to first examine ourselves and deal with our faults while not being critical of others. We feel good about denigrating others. We talk about people behind their backs. We speak harsh words and expect the person to take it. The Bible instructs us to correct one another when necessary but in a spirit of gentleness. Criticism is not a fruit of the Spirit.
Jesus cautions us about the attitudes of our hearts. It’s one thing to say, “That person stole money and needs to be appropriately punished.” It’s another to say, “That person stole money and ought to be strung up by his thumbs and horsewhipped.” Unfortunately, people who hurt us and arouse our moral outrage are difficult to love.
Jesus said, “No good tree bears bad fruit” and “the good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good… for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks”. If we want a good gauge for our spiritual health, we need to listen to what we say, not only to other people but also in private about others. Our words reflect our relationship with God as well as with others.
During the season of Lent, may we all take the time to meditate on the word of God and study Scripture, have self-examination, sincerely repent, and be in prayer.
Prayer: Oh God, sometimes it is difficult to love those who have hurt us. May you help us to be merciful and gracious as you are. Help us to forgive and love our enemies. Amen.