praying for people you hate

Category : revolutionary

Nothing is easier in this world than wanting bad things to happen to other people.  We seem to have a natural gift for this.  Even children quickly adopt this attitude, demanding that toys are taken away from “friends” or how quickly teenagers will say, “I wish you were dead.”

Of course it doesn’t get any easier when you’re an adult.  We hate our bosses.  We hate our politicians.  We hate, hate, hate.

In some cases it’s for good reasons.  Our bosses are evil.  Our politicians are corrupt.  And our neighbor likes country music.

The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah to come along – the person who would restore Israel to its former political and military might.  What they got was Jesus.  Jesus had no interest in military or political power.  He knew of something more.  Something that CS Lewis called “the deep magic”.

That deep magic is the transformative power of love.  And yes, I know, that sounds like a terrible cliché.  But stop and think for a moment.  Which would be better: an ex spouse falling off the face of the Earth?  Or having them change so much that they become a positive influence in their child’s life?  Is it better for a horrible boss to be fired?  Or change their ways so that they lead the company forward?  Would you rather your neighbor’s stereo break?  Or that they discover the joys of rock?

Our natural view is to want the “hated enemy” to be punished.  Or at the very least disappear.  But that’s not how the Kingdom operates.  It’s not how the world truly changes.  Jesus was onto something.  Jesus knew that if we all experienced the transformation that comes only through love, the world would experience a revolution.  We wouldn’t need to hate, because we would all benefit from a changed heart.

In one of the most famous lines from Star Wars, we hear that “hate leads to the dark side.”  If hate leads us to build giant, faceless, merciless armies, where does love lead us?

So as hard as it is to pray for our enemies.  Maybe it’s time we really tried to.

photo provided by flickr user livininoblivion

bargaining with God

Category : God, faith, hope, taking action

My day started with being honked at.  Apparently I had committed the horrific act of coming to a stop at the end of my driveway.

I can only assume that they were honking as a “warning” to let me know that they were coming down the road.  However, it’s possible they were just cranky.  But this was not a good way to start out my day.  Few things get under my skin as quickly as bad drivers.  Since I wrote, “love your enemy and fellow drivers” I have tried to take a different approach to bad drivers.  But it’s never easy.

As I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that I need to stay calm, I followed this driver down the street.  Before long we came to a stop sign.  Of course we all know that a stop sign requires that we come to a “complete and full stop.”  Well this driver rolled right through it.  She barely slowed down.

That’s when I realized what had happened.  She had assumed that since she didn’t stop at intersections, I wouldn’t either.  Psychologists call this “projection.”  It’s the very simple idea that we project what we’re feeling and doing onto other people.  (This is why someone who is a compulsive liar always assumes everyone else is lying.)  She was honking because if our roles were reversed, she would have cut me off.

The sad thing is we do this with God all the time.  We project our own views, beliefs, and motives on him.  If you’ve ever tried to bargain with God, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  When we find ourselves in need of help, instead of just asking, we pray things like, “God if you just help me out now, I promise to give up drinking.”  Or “God, if you heal my kid, I will go to church every week.”

This is a very natural reaction.  It’s what we do with our families.  We tell our kids, “if you eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert.”  Or we tell our employees, “if you put in extra hours, then you can have a raise.”  We even bargain with ourselves, “if I go the gym tonight, I can have a piece of cake tomorrow.”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bargaining.  Even God says some things are based on our behavior: “to those who are faithful in the small things, more things will be given.”  But when it comes to God’s love and mercy, we can’t bargain for that.  God doesn’t hold out on us until we earn enough credit.  We can’t be good enough to earn our way into his favor.  There’s nothing we have that we can offer to God in some kind of exchange.  It’s not like God has much need of your collection of baseball cards or your money.  Bargaining with God is not only theologically wrong, it doesn’t even make sense!

Instead we need to learn to receive God.  To accept his love, without any strings attached.   God’s love is absolute.   It is unconditional.  He’s not like you and I.  He’s truly radical and revolutionary.  And so is his behavior.

How do you add more to that?

photo provided by flickr user Nate Larimer