Red - Week 4: Daily Reflections Tuesday, October 27, 2015
This week our daily reflections will be focused once again on one of the "hard sayings" of Jesus. The difficult words of Jesus that we're wrestling with this week come to us from Matthew 5:22 where Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
Whenever I read passages of Scripture where Jesus is exhorting his followers to forgive their enemies, or to let go of bitterness toward people who have hurt us, or to not speak angry, cruel and violent words toward those who have wronged us... I often find myself thinking things like, "I completely agree with everything you are saying here Jesus, but you don't understand what [fill in name here] has done to me! I don't think this really applies to them!"
It's true that there are some people who are so toxic, so bitter and nasty that simply being around them makes you feel as though you need an antidote to poison after you walk away. Sometimes these toxic people may be family members, which makes things even more complicated.
What do we do in these situations where someone acts so awfully toward us that forgiving them seems like an absolutely Herculean task that we'll never be able to pull off?
What do we do when it's easier to rant, complain, revile and otherwise turn the air blue around us about how terrible these people have been and continue to be toward us?
You and I have a choice. We can keep complaining, keep harboring unforgiving feelings in our hearts or we can step into what Jesus always seems to be urging us to do--forgive, and speak grace and peace. But in order to do that, we have to realize a couple of things.
First, to coin a much-used phrase, we need to realize that "Hurting people hurt people." The reason that toxic person in your life is so toxic, so bitter and nasty is because they feel that way inside. They have been hurt, and they haven't gotten over it.
Sometimes the wounds are so deep and terrible that they begin to believe they will never be made whole, and then that colors the way they see the world and everything around them. When we realize that the real reasons that toxic person in our life might actually be in worse pain than they are inflicting, it can help us take a step toward forgiveness.
Second, forgiving a toxic person doesn't mean that we have to hang out with them. Sometimes the very best thing for us is to put some distance between us and the toxic people in our life. We can love them, forgive them, see them as broken and hurting and speak grace and peace into their life, but in order to be healthy both emotionally and spiritually, we may have to stay away from them.
Proverbs 26:11 reads, "As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." I know that's a nasty kind of image, but it fits. Toxic, bitter people tend to always go back to the same kind of nastiness and bile time after time, unless they are delivered from their hurt and anger. And the good news is, we don't have to be there when they do.
May you be filled today with the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who calls you into difficult and life-giving moments of forgiveness, but does not call you there without the strong help of the Holy Spirit, who leads you to all truth.