Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).
Nobody gets to choose their parents and siblings. The true colors of that person you hired or who hired you will not show until weeks into the job. Similarly, you will not know your spouse until after the honeymoon. Often these arrangements work out well enough, sometimes blissfully. But everyone gets stuck with someone sometime.
Thank goodness for the peace we enjoy with the like-minded and agreeable neighbor. Yet, keeping that peace is not making peace. It does not take a peacemaker to rest in a soft berth.
Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:46-47) In other words, what does such ordinary pleasantry have to do with the extraordinary ways of God?
Sometimes divorce, termination of employment, changing roommates, and unfriending on Facebook must occur for everyone’s peace, when the best efforts at maintaining a relationship only ramp up the suffering for everyone concerned. But be careful. If you exclude or drive away everyone you are stuck with who makes demands of you, who tries your patience, who irritates and manipulates you, who proves too small to apologize for hurting you, then you sidestep a spiritual practice as crucial as prayer: Forgiveness.
Yes, forgiveness of the ones you are stuck with is as crucial as prayer. Jesus’ only follow-up comment on the Lord’s Prayer pertained to, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 5:12). He added, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). To draw near to God, one must first forgive the nearly godless.
Forgiveness draws us nearer to God because it reminds us that God first forgives us. “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
Nobody ever committed an offense against me that I never committed against God in one way or the other. Yet, God forgives me and loves me relentlessly.
We know God loves us because God chooses to remain stuck with us. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), Jesus said after chiding us for welcoming only the lovely, companionable folks in our lives. God’s perfection is God’s love for us despite our lapses into unloveliness and outright neglect of the One who sustains us.
Pray without ceasing, yes, but if you do so without loving the ones you are stuck with, you pray without growing. You pray without really caring to Whom you pray. For God loves you enough to remain stuck with you, and God not only bears with you but invites you to join in the arduous but ultimately most rewarding work of loving as God loves. Only then, with God’s help, do you rise above unloveliness. Then you are peacemaker, perfect like your heavenly Father, bearing the family crest of God.
Jesus on Perfection
The Lord’s Prayer and a Grateful Heart
Prayer: More Than an Excuse to Do Nothing
I have had many parishioners that were thorns in the flesh. People that felt it was there place to criticize and “correct” me.
I have had to do lots of forgiving. Not for their sake, but for mine. Letting go of the hurts of the past allows me to live in the joy of the present.
Being stuck with the constant critic is so challenging. Forgiving is the very kindness you deserve to give yourself, and it shifts attention from their demeaning narrative to God’s loving narrative.
Oh Marshall, I was hooked on this posting from the moment I read the title. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom and understanding. Of course it is often most difficult to forgive those we are “stuck with” but it is the most important forgiving we can do. Lots of Love, Cinda
It’s hard work, but so good for the soul!