“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more payback. Live generously. Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal?” (Luke 6:27-33 MSG)
Do you like tongue twisters? Here’s an old favourite: “What noise annoys an oyster most? A noisy noise annoys an oyster most.” I doubt that noise annoys oysters at all since they can’t hear. But I do know what does annoy them the most, along with clams and mussels: sand!
My wife and I live near bountiful mussel beds. We canoe out past an island not far from our property, and within minutes, we have a feast fit for a king or queen, or anyone else who likes shellfish. We have grown fond of them served in many ways. One thing that we have to worry about is finding a pearl! It isn’t pleasant biting down on a rock-hard pearl!
Bivalve mollusks can’t get rid of a piece of sand very easily — though they find it very irritating — so they have come up with a unique solution. They excrete a fluid which encompasses the sand and then hardens. The end result of the irritation is a beautiful pearl. These pearls can be worth their weight in gold, and can be used as medicines, beauty treatments, and a host of other beneficial things.
When we face irritation, two recourses are open to us: to get rid of the irritation in any way we can, or to surround the irritation with beauty, like the mussel, clam, or oyster. It’s really the same with people who irritate us. We can find ways of avoiding them, rejecting them, and, if worse comes to worst, ignoring them. Or we can do it Jesus’ way.
Jesus says that there are people out there who will consider themselves our sworn enemies no matter what happens. I don’t know if we can win them over or not, but we can transform our attitude of irritation and bring about something new. What to do with the enemy? Jesus says to try an extra big dose of love — the kind of love that loves no matter what response is received, and goes right on loving no matter what are the outward circumstances. Christ-followers should be the first in line to show mercy, because those of us who have been forgiven much, love much. “If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” (Luke 7:47b MSG)
“If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more payback. Live generously.” (Luke 6:30 MSG)
Prayer: God, I wish that I knew how to love as You do — but I don’t — so I need Your help to offer this prayer. Lord, I ask You to bless those I find most irritating, realizing that many may find that I can be just as maddening at times. Pour out Your grace upon them, and fill their hearts with a deep desire to love and serve You. Teach me to love others as You do. Amen.
Copyright © 2023, by Kenn Stright <email@example.com>, first published on the PresbyCan Daily Devotional presbycan.ca
West Petpeswick, Nova Scotia, Canada
Used with the permission of PresbyCan and author.