When Emotions Take Over
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them . . . Repay no one evil for evil . . . Romans 12:14, 17
When I read the Bible, I obviously come across teachings that I agree with and believe to be true. I know that I should live according to these truths and I think it would be great if everyone else did as well. When I see others not living that way, I recognize the flawed, destructive behavior, and I’m quick to be critical. When it comes to me though, I often know what’s right, while I don’t feel like doing it. Of course, it’s different when it’s me. I’m justified.
Nowhere is this disconnect more obvious than with today’s passage. In it, Paul told us that as followers of Christ, we must adopt a radically unusual posture towards our enemies. He said that instead of cursing them, we must pray for and bless them. We’re not to return evil to those who do evil to us, but rather, we must desire and pray for God’s good and perfect will in their lives.
This sounds like a great idea. I believe it to be true. When I think of that person in my life however – my enemy – everything I believe goes out the window as my emotions take over. I’m not going to bless that person. I don’t like to admit it, but if I’m honest, I harbor hatred for that person. I’m not about to pray for good things for him. Rather, I just might wish evil upon him. If I had to pray about the situation at all, it would probably be to ask God to smite him.
This, I think, is where I find out if my faith is authentic or not. Anyone can do the right thing when he or she feels like it. The challenge of today’s passage is to behave in a manner that is completely contrary to my feelings. It’s not that my feelings are always wrong, but sometimes they are, and Paul insisted that my behavior must not be ruled by them. My hatred, even if I think it’s justified, always turns me away from God.
Think of that one person that you cannot stand to be around. Think of what that person has done to you or put you through and think of how that’s made you feel. Now, imagine treating that person as a loved one. Because our hatred is inherently self-destructive, and because God loves that individual, this is exactly what Paul has commanded us to do.