In our previous post, we examined what the Golden Rule, the Our Father and other Scriptural references teach us about love and mercy, and how we need to develop a new attitude in treating difficult people. Today, we will look at the Scriptural justification for this new outlook, why God might allow difficult people to cross our paths, and how the saints approached even troublesome and problematic people.
A New Attitude (continued)…
…Where do I get off claiming such power and opportunity can come from the crabs of the world? Because Jesus said so. “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Luke 6:38). And in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10 we are told, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” What a deal! That means if you show mercy to others, God will show mercy to you. And if you show mercy to people who do not seem to deserve it, then you hit the jackpot of graces – you too will receive mercy that we don’t deserve.
Remember, whatever you do for others you do for Christ, but that’s not all – everything comes full circle. The measure of love and mercy you give to others does not just go from others to Christ; it is meted back to you. Investing love in difficult people nets quite an amazing return indeed.
Why would God make such a deal? Why would He want you to love your enemies instead of helping Him out in the justice department? Let’s take a moment and think about it from God’s perspective. If you are a parent, think of how you feel when your kids argue and behave in a hateful way towards one another. Mothers and fathers feel very sad when anger enters their children’s relationships. You want your children to love one another. If your son, Bobby, punches his sister, Suzie, does it make you happy to see Suzie clobber him back? Or on an older level, if your daughter Robin was caught gossiping about her sister, Cindy, it would break your heart if Cindy blew up at Robin and told her off.
Now, imagine if instead of clobbering Bobby, Suzie told him to stop the punching and join her on the swing set to play. And what if Cindy merely responded by telling Robin that the gossip hurt her because she loves her sister so very much? When you think of your own children, it is easier to understand why God wants you to love others regardless of what the other may have done to you.
There’s something else to consider, too. Maybe God is not just sitting back and hoping you’ll be nice to His difficult children. Maybe sometimes He actually puts them in your path to begin with. After all, if He knows you are going to be kind and even pray for our enemies, maybe He’s bringing them to you.
This thought occurred to me one day while I was walking my two dogs on a walking path that circles a golf course. When people come from the other direction, I pull my dogs aside onto the grass so there is plenty of room on the sidewalk for the other walker. One morning, my mind was on something else and I did not do this when an older man walked past me. He had to take a few steps onto the grass and then back onto the sidewalk. Not a big deal in my book. But wouldn’t you know it, the one time I do not pay attention and slip in the courtesy department, I have to pass by perhaps the crabbiest man on the walking trail that morning. He angrily yelled at me over this seemingly minor incident. I was a bit shaken, but quickly apologized. The man simply walked off in a huff.
Then, I thought to myself: I always pull my dogs aside so why did I have to space out when I passed this obviously unhappy person? That’s when it occurred to me: Maybe God brought him to my attention to show me a poor soul in need of prayers. God knew that instead of yelling back at the man, I would pray for him, which was something he obviously needed.
I suppose this thought might be a scary one in a way. Does that mean that, if I pray for my persecutors, God is going to send me more? Do you want more of these sorts of people in your life?
If you read the lives of the saints, you know that they would have answered this last question with a “yes”. They were not only kind to people who treated them harshly, they seemed to be attracted to such souls. Consider the example of St. Thérèse of Lisieux who took it upon herself to help the one nun in her convent who everyone found to be extremely difficult. She did such a good job at showing love that this elderly nun wanted to know what it was about her that attracted St. Thérèse. Being prudent as well as loving, St. Thérèse just smiled. Whenever I read biographies of the saints, this merciful behavior always abounds. Because the saints show us the way to God through their examples, it would seem that the road to heaven is paved with challenging people.
Showing love instead of indulging in revenge is truly a difficult challenge at times. It’s an expectation that most of us, myself certainly included, struggle with. So if this article has challenged you beyond your desires, and if I have irritated you by presenting it here, then go ahead and get started right away by praying for me. You can be sure I’ll be doing the same for you. Because God gave me my gift of writing and I’ve given it back to Him, once my work is done, I pray for those who read my words. This is actually quite easy for me because you guys don’t even bug me.
Art: La Godivelle 2 of the Church Corbels which Represent the Seven Deadly Sins, photographed by Romary, July 20078 own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; A treasure chest, badaman, 18 June 2009, Open Clip Art Library PD, CC0-1.0 Universal Public Domain; both Wikimedia Commons.