Seventy Times Seven
This week I've been dealing with a difficult person.
For the record, they aren't a church person, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with church. I'm having to deal with them over some personal business, and they are making things harder than they need to be.
Dealing with difficult people is not my favorite pastime. It's probably not yours either.
The French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre once quipped, "Hell is other people." Sometimes I totally get that. Being connected to negative, needlessly obstinate and nasty people can suck the life right out of you... and it can feel pretty hellish.
It's easy to begin to see the difficult people in our life as caricatures as mere instruments of negativity and maybe even evil. When we see them through the lens of our own self-interest, it's easy to demonize and dismiss them outright.
But Jesus teaches us by his example another way. Jesus taught his followers to practice radical forgiveness. Check out this exchange between the Apostle Peter and Jesus.
"At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, 'Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?' Jesus replied, 'Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.'" (Matthew 18:21-22)
And then there's the way Jesus treated Judas, who betrayed him.
At the moment of his betrayal at the hands of Judas, Jesus embraces him, and according to Blaise Pascal, "[He] disregards the enmity of Judas, and sees only in him God's will, which he loves; so much so that he calls him friend."
Jesus saw past the ugliness of the betrayal and saw in Judas the working of God's will. How many of us can say that we are able to do that? Most of us turn away from that example of Jesus, unable or unwilling to follow it.
Oswald Chambers once wrote, "When we lose sight of God we become hard and dogmatic... We don't worship God nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people."
On this Fifth Thursday of Lent, may you see God's will at work through Christ in all of the difficult people you encounter today and every day. May you discover new truths about who you are and how God is working in your life.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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