As he left the room, I was in complete shock that a person would ever talk to another professional that way. I only had a few minutes before nearly 100 students would be in my classroom ready to sing their little hearts out so I shut down my emotions and put a smile on my face.
A few hours later, I placed my hands on the steering wheel after a long, hard day when water suddenly came pouring out of my eyes. As a man, I shouldn’t admit this secret moment to you for fear of appearing over-emotional.
“Only weak men cry” our society tells us. But I don’t buy that crap. The truth is the dam of the struggles of this past month finally couldn’t hold back the stress anymore and the water came flowing over the edge and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I am overwhelmed God.
My soul is tired and weary.
As I drove to work the next morning, anger clenched to the steering wheel while I rehearsed my big speech, a public declaration of every terrible thing this person has done to me over the past five years. When I arrived at school I knew I was much too angry and much too busy to go through with it.
After the weekend passed, my anger slowly washed out with the evening tide and a sudden and unexpected emotion took its place: compassion.
- How powerless must a person feel to attack someone who tirelessly pours out love to students day after day after day?
- How lonely must someone be to tear down a man who is endlessly trying to make the world a better place?
- How lost must he be to endlessly fight against the light?
I often hear that I am too tender-hearted.
I take things too personally.
I am too gentle and I don’t stand up for myself.
I am weak and scrawny.
And perhaps this is true.
Yet, for a while now I have known that all I want is for my life to sing the melody Jesus composed for me two-thousand years ago. His song, however, is not a fight song, a battle cry or a fanfare: it’s a song of love.
A few days later I was thinking about that terrible interaction when I realized the most terrifying words Jesus ever said:
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.”
Love my enemies? Are you freaking kidding me. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
These words are terrifying because in the moment, they seem impossible to live out. They are horrifying because by the world’s standards, love appears weak and timid. They are gruesome because they leave no outlet for revenge and force us to find the forgiveness on our own.
Then God showed me something I didn’t want to see: this guy, while perhaps quite awful in his word choice and you know, general people skills, was not the root of the problem. The core of the issue was within me. I was still harboring a list of wrong-doing and avoiding him at all costs when God is clearly calling all of us to move towards those that need Jesus the most.
You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. -Matthew 5:46-48 (MSG)
You see, every terrible interaction we have with anyone from a family member to a customer service representative is the greatest opportunity we have to set ourselves apart and show those we encounter the love of Christ. In a world that loves scandals, drama, gossip, and revenge we have the opportunity to let them bring out the best in us:
the unparalleled love of Jesus.
That love Jesus is talking about is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
So today my friends, I hope you can see a little bit of my struggle in your story. I challenge you to find the true strength the resides within all of us to love and forgive even the most unlovable people around us. While the world may never understand those terrifying words Jesus said, we know this beautiful truth:
true strength is displayed through love.
Choose to pray for compassion towards someone who only knows how to tear people down. Decide to let your biggest struggle bring out the best in you, not the worst.
Rise above and love like Jesus, for those are the two most impactful things any of us will ever do.