If you have tried to follow the instructions given in this course so far you have probably not noticed much of a difference in the people you hate, but there is probably a difference in you. Most of what we have learned has had to do with what we think, especially what we think about our enemy, or the person that offends us.
- Bless and curse not: Think and say good, or if you cannot think of anything good, then something neutral about this person. Even if you cannot think or say something good, you can always pray for good things for your enemy.
- Walk a mile in their shoes: Try seeing things from the other person's perspective. Even if you cannot quite understand, the exercise of trying will help cool the fires of anger and frustration.
- Never take your own revenge: It is tempting to get even, but if you do you interfere with God's justice. Justice belongs to the Lord and allowing God to punish is an act of faith that really costs you something, but at the same time really demonstrates the true quality of your faith.
We now move from how we should think about our enemies to what we should do in order to go from hating to loving them.
Plan Something Beautiful
Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
- Romans 12:17b
The word respect means "to be careful to do" or "perceiving beforehand." Another translation clarifies what Paul means here, "Plan ahead to do what is fine in the sight of all men" (Christian Counsellor's New Testament). This brings us to step number four in learning to love those we hate. Simply stated step #4 is this:
Plan ahead to do something beautiful for your enemy in the sight of all.
Instead of responding with your emotions (which are hurt and anger), plan ahead to what your response is going to be, this is the first part of this admonition.
When offended, feeling hatred and anger towards another, sit down and plan ahead what you are going to do. What good are you planning in order to overcome this evil? This is why James tells us to be slow to speak and slow to anger in James 1:19. Take time to plan a proper response.
Paul explains this idea in another letter when he says, "See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and all." (I Thessalonians 5:15). Do not just seek to do the first thing that comes to mind (usually revenge of some kind), search to find just the right thing for this person. We continue the cycle if we do not take control of the situation by making a plan. It usually starts with passive things like not talking about them, etc. before getting to aggressive good.
Do something beautiful is the second part.
Do not do just any old thing, do something beautiful (another word for fine, right). Do not just settle for the right thing to do, go the second mile and do the beautiful thing, there is the right thing then there is the beautiful thing. This is a radical teaching because it is perfectly in line with the radical act of God in saving us through the cross of Jesus. We acted ugly towards God, He responded not just with the right/just thing, He came back with a beautiful and kind gesture by sending Jesus to die for us.
To do something beautiful for the one we hate is easy to preach, but hard, very hard to practice. We water down Jesus' admonition to love our enemies by saying that loving them only means not to wish them harm and praying for them. But is this all you do for the ones you love? Wish them no harm, pray for them? Jesus, and in this passage, Paul, get to radical Christianity when they tell us that healing relationships requires concrete, aggressive, demonstrable love.
Do it in the sight of all men is the third part of this admonition.
At first you might think this is just to humble you, to make you feel humiliation by doing something beautiful for someone who wronged you, and doing it publicly. On the contrary, the purpose is to demonstrate strength, to glorify God, to witness powerfully to our enemy that the love of Christ is stronger than the offense or the hurt we feel.
To do it in public causes others to take notice, but to take notice that your response is unlike any they have ever seen in a similar situation. If you are wronged and get a plan and come back with something beautiful others will say, "I cannot believe what he did" or "What a good person" or "Now that is real Christianity for you." (People know it when they see it, even if they themselves are not Christians.) The point is not to "win over" the other person (although this may happen) the point is to show the other person and everyone else watching that evil did not overcome good. Good is the winner.
Doing Something Beautiful - Example 1
October 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts, a milk truck delivery man, took a one room schoolhouse in the Amish community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, hostage. He then proceeded to shoot and kill five little girls between 6-13 before taking his own life. As a response to this tragedy the Amish community later tore down the old schoolhouse and built a new one and named it the New Hope School.
What was really amazing, however, was the response that the Amish community made towards the killer's family, who were not Amish. A Roberts Family spokesman said that only hours after the killing, the killer's family received visits from their Amish neighbors offering comfort and forgiveness. One Amish man held Roberts' sobbing father in his arms for an hour comforting him.
The Amish community then did several beautiful things in the sight of all:
- They invited Roberts' widow to the funeral of the children he killed, and allowed her to write a letter of apology on behalf of the family.
- People from the Amish community attended the killer's funeral and also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter, since he left behind a widow and 3 fatherless children.
This story makes our petty quarrels and responses quite small in comparison, does it not?
Doing Something Beautiful - Example 2
Amber Guyger, Dallas police officer, who shot and killed Botham Jean when she mistakenly entered his apartment thinking she was in her own apartment one floor down, and thought he was an intruder. She was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Then, in the middle of this sad and depressing situation, something beautiful happened. Brandt Jean, the murdered man's younger brother, stepped forward in the courtroom and hugged the convicted officer and told her that he forgave her and even encouraged her to believe in Jesus and receive forgiveness.
What the media did not report was that the deceased, his brother and family were all members of the Church of Christ.
Think up a strategy of something you could do for your enemy that could be beautiful. Do not do it, just think of what you could do if circumstances on your heart would permit it.
I do not check or correct the homework, this is for your own spiritual development.
- Describe some of the changes in your thinking since the beginning of the course. Each discuss.
- When you are wronged, how do you usually respond emotionally? Open discussion.
- What is your typical reaction when you see the person next time? Open discussion.
- What are some of the "beautiful things" that could be done for the person you are at odds with?