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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Today’s Reading | Matthew 5:38–48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (NRSV)

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”—yin and yang, push and pull. This makes perfect sense to me. Hebrew laws addressed this human instinct by saying that whenever someone harmed you, you could retaliate in a fair and equal way. Christ mentions this commonly known law of “an eye for an eye” in his Sermon on the Mount. Then he then extends, or “fulfills” the law and asks us not to retaliate at all! He asks us to turn toward those who harm us, to offer more to those who take from us.

I am all for the “turn the other cheek” method when all is going well. I completely agree with “loving your enemies” when they are distant, when it is in theory, and when it causes me no immediate action. Loving people in theory is far different than turning toward someone you know who has caused you harm and showing them tangible love. If I feel I have been harmed in even the slightest way, I begin the “should-a, would-a, could-a” conversation in my head, describing in great detail how I am going to get that person back! I can’t say that I have ever actually done any of the things that are in my head, but I am willing to donate hours of energy to the daydream.

What good could possibly come from praying for our enemies? For me, prayer puts me in conversation with God. It allows me to purposefully break the cycle of the “poor, pitiful me” conversation. I am not driving the retaliation bus; I am bringing my hurt to God. I can bask in the love of God, rather than expect it from everyone on earth. There will be harm done to you. When (not if) it happens, turn to God and strive to be the child God created.

God, you must know that it is in our nature to want to retaliate. Help us to act as you would, not react as we desire. Amen.

Written by Katy Sinclair, Associate Director of Music for Children and Youth

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