I’m currently reading a new book by Brian McLaren entitled Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words. I’m finding this book extremely uplifting in places, straightforward to be sure, and challenging–especially when Brian confronts my own lack of faith, discretion, peace, joy, compassion or many other occasional (and frequent) failings.
I have always struggled with Jesus’ command to “Love your enemies.” Doing good to those I don’t like–hate is still too strong a word–is not my natural bent. I would much rather punch their lights out, slash their tyres, or wish a tornado on their house.
But Jesus–the One I have committed my life to follow-demands that I bless those who persecute me, do good to those who speak evil of me.
Brian challenged me with these words specifically when writing about being compassionate:
When we are wounded by others, we’re tempted to dehumaize and demonizethem by labelling them with words like ‘communist,’ ‘imperialist,’ ‘evil,’ ‘insane,’ heretic,’ ‘fundamentalist,’ ‘ilberal,’ or ‘infidel.’ Ironically, by turning them into subhuman monsters in our own minds, we also empower them, making them larger than life and intensifying our own anxiety about them. No wonder Jesus taught that our first response should be instead to pray for them and to bless them. In so doing, we turn them back from threatening monsters into what they really are: little human beings like us, human beings with a problem–fear, rage, hate, anxiety, ignorance, misinformation, misguided values, inappropriate habits, harmful training, insecurity, or whatever. By praying for them, by blessing them, we look beyond their faults and see their need, and we seek to help them with their need. Rather than getting caught up ourselves in the deadly cycle of violence and counterviolence, we join Desmond Tutu [He previously told a story about Tutu’s reaction of blessing towards a man who attacked him] and many other courageous spiritual leaders on a better path, the path of peace and reconciliation. (pp. 137-138)
This is not easy, but it is possible. It also echoes Jesus’ prayer when he taught us to pray, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’ In the context of ‘bearing the stretcher’ for others who are in need of healing, Brian’s words challange me to live in such a way that I live with compassion towards others, blessing them even whenI think they don’t deserve it . . .
. . . simply because, as a fellow human being, I too am frequently in the same need of compassion.