Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mean-Spirited People

Her name was Mary Beth.  I remember it like yesterday, even though it happened in fourth grade.  She was so mean to me.  She made fun of me, stole my friends and even convinced the boy I liked that I had cooties so he ran away from me.  That was my first taste of pure dislike (probably more like hate) of someone. 

But it wasn't my last.

Unfortunately, there are people in our lives that just irritate us, berate us or make us feel like we are not loveable.  These people are easy to hate.  But they are hard to love.  Mean-spirited people can bring out the worst in us. And yet, Jesus tells us clearly that we are to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:44-45).  I remember thinking that was impossible the first time I read it.  But it is true - when we pray for our enemies, the Lord does something very miraculous in our heart - He changes it and gives us a love for people that we never thought we could love.

I never took revenge on Mary Beth, mostly because I was inexperienced, but in my life I have tried taking matters into my own hands with people who were ugly to me and it was never a favorable outcome.  Now I think I see why...

"Don't rejoice when your enemies fall; don't be happy when they stumble.  For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn His anger away from them."  Proverbs 24:17-18

Whoa. So when I find sadistic joy in someone who I don't like falling (or failing), God actually turns His anger from them and is displeased with me.  It's like this invisible force-field of protection that I put up around the one with whom I am irritated!  How crazy is that?

I know it's tempting to want to get even.  I know people can be downright difficult to live with.  I know there are times when it seems appropriate to be the avenger.  But the next time I feel like I need to get even, I need to remember that when I try to do it myself, I'm in essence telling God, "No thanks, I've got this one" and He then protects that person from me. 

So....my question for you is Who are you praying for today? I know the list is probably a long one of the people you love, the people on your prayer list from church or bible study.  But what about those who are under your skin, irritating you to the point of frustration?  What about those who laugh when you fail?  Or try to take your job?  Or make fun of the way you look?  Or talk behind your back?  Or maybe this person broke your heart? 

The challenge for today is to pray for someone you don't necessarily feel like loving.  I know that God can change your heart for this person because His Word says so.  And I know it because He's done it for me.

Matthew 5:38-39 You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But I say, do not resist an evil person!  If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also."

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