Our country, our world, is full of anger. Groups rise up to strike those they believe have deprived them. Demand rights. Claim freedom from constraints that feel like shackles. Individuals flare up with road rage, domestic abuse, even mass murder. As I hung our American flag today I wondered, what is all this freedom for?
The people who worked and died to found our country had a vision for a freedom based on sacrifice. When they declared independence and battled to procure it, some lost their lives or the lives of their sons. Many lost homes and property.
How did we gravitate to the point that one man takes another’s life or dignity in the name of freedom? Where the rights of one person negate the lives of thousands? Where freedom is only allowed for “me, myself and I” and those who agree with me?
Today I salute the flag, and am grateful for a country where I can still worship, speak, and write in freedom. (And I pray these freedoms continue, no matter who disagrees with me.) I am indebted to those who fought to maintain freedom here and around the world, as well as those who stand guard today, not knowing where the next suicide bomber will appear.
But I can’t help wondering, with so much hatred, anger and animosity, what is all this freedom for?
Though burdened with the pain and suffering of those close and far, I circle back to the One who guides my life, who said,
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look:
‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere?
Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it.
If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back,
giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.
And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.
No more tit-for-tat stuff.
You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’
I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies.
Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.
When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.
This is what God does.
He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.
If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?
Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I’m saying is,
Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it.
Live out your God-created identity.
Live generously and graciously toward others,
the way God lives toward you.”
Matt 5 38-48 MSG
Have you found that sweet space, even if for a moment, when you know you are working out of your true self, your God-created self?