A few days before Lent, I woke with a heaviness on my heart. I was concerned about a situation that had recently occurred and was wondering what to do.
I wasn’t involved in what took place, but a friend had asked for some advice. I was able to calmly listen, and then I tried to encourage and offer a little guidance.
But as the days went on, I found myself more and more annoyed. I was agitated at the wrongdoing, frustrated by the injustice in the situation. I wanted to deal with it, even if that meant just being rude to someone.
No matter how much I thought about the events (and of ways I could express my disapproval at what happened) I knew I had to let it go. This situation had nothing to do with me. I was not at liberty to address the issue – and more importantly, I had no right to treat the offending party with anything other than kindness.
What was required of me was hard to grasp and accept. It felt like an unfair challenge that I should have to continue to act not just civil towards this person, but to act with love.
As I lay in bed early that morning, I thought about how hard it can be to choose kindness. But even worse was the heavy feeling on my heart. I didn’t like living with this angst in my life and I knew the truth: the only way to get rid of the angst was to let go of my anger.
There are plenty of times when we need to address wrongdoing. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus tells the disciples that if someone wrongs you, to go to that person to deal with the issue. If that doesn’t work, you bring another person into the situation as a witness, to get a peaceful resolve.
But there are also situations when dealing with the problem is not the solution. If the problem is none of my business, I have no right to be involved. An unkind word spoken (but not to me), a mismanaged situation (not involving me) – these are unfortunate, but they are not for me to handle.
That morning, what I heard clearly was this: Perfect love casts out all fear.
Fear is what was driving my attitude, a desire to withhold kindness and love. I was afraid to be loving and kind because what if that person doesn’t deserve kindness? If I was nice to this person, he might be free to keep being mean. Didn’t I need to be rude?
Faulty reasoning at best.
Perfect love casts out all fear.
What is this perfect love, I asked. Immediately, I saw an image of the Sacred Heart – the bloodied, battered heart of Jesus, burning with love for me.
That was the kind of love I had to show everyone around me – even those I had not deemed worthy of my love. Maybe even especially those people.
So often when we are working extra hard to love someone, it’s because this person is difficult to love (even in some small way). Maybe it is someone who doesn’t receive love well or is prickly or maybe even just plain mean. The people who are easy to love don’t drive us to the feet of Jesus begging for mercy.
When I think about the heart of Jesus burning with love for me, I know that if he has that much love for me, surely I can spare even just a little for this person in my path.
Sometimes it is scary to love a person we think doesn’t deserve it. Sometimes the cost seems too high.
But when I remember this is the same love poured out for me every minute of my entire life, not just from family and friends, but from God, I realize I can somehow muster the strength to share this with others, even those who don’t receive it easily.
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