[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]
From my perspective, January 1st has come upon us like a freight train, and with it a slew of resolutions are surely dotting our horizons. “I am gonna lose a few pounds.” “I want to finally finish that project around my house.” “This is the year I get my raise!” Maybe you want to learn to speak another language, exercise more, invest in your grandkids, or spend more time with friends over coffee. What is high atop your list of things to resolve to accomplish this coming year? God has granted you possibly another 365 days to steward at will. Not to discourage any desires, but if history is any indicator, many of those “resolutions” will be tossed aside and discarded like New Year’s Eve confetti well before February…jus’ sayin’. Not that resolutions don’t have merit, but we need to choose them well–and follow through.
Lots of possibilities can come to mind, especially those from Scripture.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
“AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.” Mark 12:30
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
And there are loads more. In our day and age, we need more resolutely to embrace those avenues which are pleasing to the Lord.
May I propose a very unorthodox resolution for this year; it is an effort which will yield fruit well beyond your personal orbit, well beyond this calendar year. It involves working through some of the baggage of relationships, specifically enemies. Yes, after a convoluted trajectory of a spiritual life I have amassed a number whom I would not categorize as “friendlies.” Some charges are warranted, others are not–my guess is that I am not alone in this predicament. Christ addresses this head-on in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Let’s see, divinely inspired words, spoken from the mouth of God, and directed at those who would claim to follow a Christlike model…How are we to respond?
Would we possibly be so brazen as to reply to Jesus with a resolute, “No”?
“No, Jesus, I do not think that is the course of my life today.” As if to say, “I believe unforgiveness and anger are a more productive avenue to my spiritual journey.” Or, how about, “Pretty wise words, Jesus, let me think about it a bit.”
Perhaps, we had better rethink our position, maybe not our stated position, but at least the position meted out by our actions.
That one sentence of Jesus has 2 commands. Not options. Not considerations. Not platitudes. But divine imperatives.
“Love your enemies…and pray for them?” Leave it to Jesus to move in a direction opposite of where my heart desires to go…aaahhh!
Love, divine love, is regarding someone else as higher than yourself-placing their needs and wants above your own.
Love is viewing someone else’s long-term health above our own temporal emotions.
Love is kneeling before the throne of grace, the same throne from which we received grace, and appealing to the glorious God of all creation to bless someone who has who has not been a blessing to us.
It begins with forgiveness, with communication to that person; it begins with a heart that is divinely softened.
Maybe, it goes a little something like this…
“I know you do not like me very much. The truth is you have been difficult for me to love as well. We have that awkward dance in public when our eyes meet. I know you say things about me behind my back. I imagine I have said things too, things which do not present you in the best of light, nor may they always be known to be true, and even if it was true, I know I didn’t say it with the best of intent. Some of the things you have done have cut pretty deep; my guess is that you feel the same.
I can’t figure you out. I judge you by your actions; I judge myself by my heart, which I know is not fair as I always give myself the benefit of doubt, and the purest motive.
But, I do want you to have peace with God. I want to have peace with God.
My prayer for you is threefold:
I pray you would be reconciled in the love of God, and that you would love Him more each day.
I pray that you would walk securely in the grace of Jesus Christ.
I pray that you would enjoy the peace and fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”
Some of us may need to forgive people who do not have the capacity to forgive. Some enemies may have even passed away. Some of us may need to forgive anew every single day.
I know of no greater blessing to issue upon anyone than that of Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
What better plea could one have for anyone than the fulness of a Trinitarian blessing?!
For starters, if you can get to the point where you can issue this blessing, you are on the pathway to a resolution meritorious of divine accolades, and we should note, obedient to the words of Christ.
Of all the efforts exerted this coming year, my hunch is that very few could be so beneficial as letting go of such a great burden as relational pain.
We stand at the gateway to another year, and we have a choice to turn over a new leaf. Or…drag a thousand-pound grudge 365 days down the road. I, for one, do not want to introduce that millstone to 2020.
The road ahead is a beautiful journey; how much better it could be with a little less baggage!