"Pray for those who hurt you." Luke 6:28
Teddy Roosevelt used a tried and true mechanism, when working a room filled with people who knew him, but whose names did not readily come to his mind. He would shake someone's hand enthusiastically and ask, "How's the old complaint?" Immediately the unknown person would begin a sob story. It would either trigger his memory or focus that person's attention on their problem. He knew people loved talking about themselves, and this social skill kept them from asking him to remember their name. Pretty savvy. Thanks Teddy!
Everyone has a story filled with time and place, chapter and verse, blessing and curse. Wise people learn to deal with those who curse them, or their lives become a self-destructive, autobiographical short story.
Jesus established the Constitution of His Kingdom on the firm foundation of prayer. Wedged within all the beatitudes is a simple statement that has profound consequences for the citizens of His Kingdom.
"Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you."
Intercession is God's idea of retaliation. He replaces striking back with kneeling down. He values turning the other cheek over giving someone the back of the hand. The Kingdom is not about getting even with someone. It is about lifting them up. Prayer is no easy road.
God knows it is harder to hate someone you pray for. It isn't impossible, just harder. Going through the motions of feigned forgiveness produces a lobotomized faith. People who try to fake it until they make become bowls of imitation fruit. They look good on the outside, but don't hold on the inside what is advertised on their label. The world can tell the difference between real and false Christianity.
"Bless your heart." is one of the great beatitudes of Southern culture. Unfortunately, it has deteriorated into a platitude of dubious value. It is often used to cover a multitude of sins. In most Baptist churches it has become a postlude to a laundry list of complaints about a person's conduct or an exposure of their lack of character. After the poison has been spewed out of the speaker's mouth, they swirl this phrase around the teeth and gums, and spew out, "Bless their heart." It leaves a faint hint of an artificial aroma of rotten fruit floating over their venomous revelation. The odor is bit like that of a gardenia in a garbage can. But I digress.
Note to self: You just can't say anything you want to say about a person and cover it up with, "Bless their heart." God knows you don't mean a word of it. Stop it.
"Discernment is given for intercession, not fault-finding." Oswald Chambers.
"The Great OZ" is currently scaring the pants off a new generation of children who never saw Judy Garland skip her way down the "Yellow Brick Road." Spoiler Alert: The flying monkeys have been hitting the steroids. The quote stated above is from the true Os, Oswald Chambers. A British preacher, Bible professor, and patriot, Chambers died in Egypt while serving with the British Expeditionary Force in 1917. His wife preserved his messages in short hand, and presented them to the world through, "My Utmost for His Highest." It is one of the great devotional books of the 20th Century. The 21st Century Church could use it.
A curse is a call to bless. To be honest, I am rarely a First Responder. I have often had to say, "Just because I choose not to be offended, doesn't mean what you did was not offensive." It helps but it can't end there.
The Spirit of Christ offers me the capacity to make prayer my second nature. Praying for someone who has hurt me does not release them from the offense, but it does take retribution out of my hands. Prayer places the offense and the offender in God's. The relief is amazing.
Settling my accounts with God does not include settling the score with those who have wronged me. God heals my heart when I pray for their best. When I do less, I am only weakened by their worst. Prayer turns over my right to pay back to God. God's payback to me is always worth the exchange.
Reading the Constitution of The Kingdom without seeing it through the lens of prayer, makes it appear incomprehensible gibberish. There is no way a self-sufficient, prideful, prayerless person can hope to live up to this challenging manifesto. People who profess to do so are just pious posers. "Bless their hearts." Doh! Did it again.
"So why do you keep calling me, 'Lord, Lord!' when you don't do what I say?" Jesus - Luke 6:46
"But anyone who hears and doesn't obey is like a person who who builds a house without a foundation...it will collapse in a heap of ruins." Jesus - Luke 6:49
Praying and obeying are two sides of the same coin. Praying for those who have cursed you invests in them. It only costs you your pride. Holding on to a grudge is a poor investment. Let it go. Releasing your grip on it, empties your hands of a grievance, and opens them up to receive a blessing from God.
Investing in prayer on behalf of an offender is not a matter of convincing yourself they did nothing wrong. Prayer declares the direct opposite. It tells God all the gory details. Instead of taking the offense to heart, prayer releases it. Prayers leaves the offense and the offender in His capable hands. Prayer yields to God the responsibility to make it right. Prayer gives up the right to payback, and allows God time to heal your broken heart.
"It is amazing what God can do with a broken heart, if you give Him all the pieces." Samuel Chadwick