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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 6:27–38

“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.” (NRSV)

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

Quite aside from any reward here or in heaven, what else do we think could possibly bring peace? Not that these things are easy. But all that I have control over are my own actions, and then only to the extent that I seek awareness of my emotions, expectations, and motivation. Cycles of provocation, reaction, and further reaction can only stop when one person refuses to play. Why not let that person be me?

Somewhere I picked up the language of viewing other people in a spirit of generosity—of assuming they are doing the best they can do, despite how flawed their best might be. As I get older I also see that other people aren’t thinking about me nearly as much as I might think they are. So what may seem like a personal affront may have nothing to do with me at all. Can I possibly set down my self-importance and not react from a spirit of defensiveness? Can I possibly—trusting that others may be aching in their own way as I might be—pray for them? Offer a blessing? Attempt to love them?

This doesn’t mean to put myself in harm’s way or to fail to move out of it. But it does mean not returning any harm I feel may have been done me. And who knows how my unexpected refusal to react—or my unexpected regard—may ripple out?

Merciful God, help me to not judge, to not condemn quickly. Help me cultivate a spirit of generosity such that I might look for the best in others and offer them the best of myself. Amen.

Written by Anne Ellis, Program Manager for Congregational Life

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