Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.The climate of hatred is thick like a fog, intense like a desert -- and about as friendly towards our health and well being. I can hardly sign on to facebook without seeing a collection of people who want to use that as a platform for explaining why the people they hate are stupid, or looking forward to the evil people getting some poetic justice, or just practicing their favorite insults against their favorite targets. In some cases I actually belong to one of the vilified groups; in others I find myself identifying with people who are despised and marginalized.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
But before that sounds too noble: I also find myself angry -- furious -- and tempted to hatred when I look at all the unfairness and abuse. I find myself resenting the arrogance of the people who presume they know so much better than everyone else. I find myself outraged at the hypocrisy of people who claim to be loving and tolerant but who speak of other people with open contempt without bothering to understand their point of view, gleefully assuming the worst of them to justify their hatred.
All it makes is a level playing field. Every injustice and hatred that we see is a temptation to respond in kind. People tend to copy the way we are treated when we respond to others. And sometimes we even adopt the emotions that came with our action. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, there comes a time when justice brings us down to that awful level where the good guys are indistinguishable from the bad guys. Those of us who think we're better than the others are probably kidding ourselves.
If we found some action really unfair or intolerable when the other side did it, why exactly would we want to copy it? How could responding in kind do anything except make it so that there is no moral high ground?
Instead of copying the wrongdoers, Jesus challenges us to something radically different, something that could actually change the game: treating people decently whether they deserve it or not. Because people tend to copy the way we are treated when we respond to others. And sometimes we even adopt the emotions that came with our action. Treating other people with decency and respect changes us. And if it changes us, may it also humble us that we were not already treating people with decency and respect.
Does that even apply to our enemies? Of course it does. Where's the credit in being good to people who are good to us? Even the worst people on earth may be kind to their own, as Jesus points out. And if that's all we've got going, we're no different. Jesus' words "Bless those who curse you" could only apply to someone who hated us; exactly who else would be cursing us?
The work will be to figure out how to bless the people who are cursing us.