Thursday, February 08, 2018

Break the Cycle of Hostility

Two pastors at my conference in Eldoret, Kenya

Every leader, every pastor, is disliked by someone. I know I am.

Most of us, I suspect, dislike people who dislike us. At least some of them. Our level of animosity may be in proportion to what the person has said about us, or done to us.

No one is universally loved. Jesus wasn't, in spite of loving his enemies, and giving his life for us all.

Sometimes, it can happen when I am in solitude and praying, the face of a person who hates me enters my mind. I may dwell on what they have done to me. This is never good for my soul, much less theirs. 

Then I remember - I cannot get this out of my mind - what Jesus did for us, for me, for my enemy. And what Jesus asks me and my enemy to do.

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.
Luke 6:27-28

Richard Foster writes:

"It is one thing to love a friend, a stranger, or the virtually anonymous mass of humanity and another to love and forgive an enemy who hates and hurts us. When Jesus tells us to love, bless, and pray for our enemies and turn the other cheek, he’s emphasizing he doesn’t want us to be people who thrive on aggression and retaliation, who return blow for blow, curse for curse, grudge for grudge, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. He wants us to break the cycle of hostility." (Foster,  Year with God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines, Kindle Locations 1041-1044) 

Why is this still so hard for me? The answer is: I am still in bondage. A chain still fetters me. I have not yet arrived. Christ is in me, but there is part of my heart where I have not allowed him to reign.

I am praying to love my enemies. Foster says, "This is Christianity. It is not an easy thing to do. But following Christ has never been an easy thing to do."

In my praying times, God is reminding me of my enemies. I name them, and force myself to pray for them. I pray for the day when loving my enemies is my habit, my inclination. Then I will be free. Only a free person can love those who are against them.

Much in the spiritual life, and in the Real Church, rides on this. Our worship, my worship, depends on this. Foster writes:

“Whose name should come first [in prayer]? Perhaps the name of our enemies. The injunction of Jesus is plain: ‘Pray for them which despitefully use you.’ He told us that worship is vain if we are embittered; that we should be wise to leave our gifts before the altar, go to make peace with our neighbor, and then worship. Only then can we truly worship. So the first intercession is, ‘Bless So-and-so, whom I foolishly regard as an enemy. Bless So-and-so whom I have wronged. Keep them in Thy favor. Banish my bitterness.’”

My recent book is: 

My first book is: