You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5
Jewish theologian Zalman Schachter has an interesting way of listening to this text. He says that, at least once a year, he hosts an imaginary dinner party in his mind, to which he invites everyone with whom he has had a run-in during the past year. Everyone with whom he is on bad terms. Everyone who hurt, offended, or disappointed him or his family.
Once gathered around the table, he explains to each of his guests that he has invited them to this feast to thank them for the gifts they have given him, the lessons they have taught him.
- Some have taught him to be realistic about what he can really expect from other people
- Others have taught him that hypocrisy is sometimes inevitable when the demands of daily life make it impossible to live up to our highest ideals
- Still others have taught him to look more deeply into himself. When stung by their criticism, he has learned how to look into himself and his past, asking himself why he reacts so strongly
My mother always taught me that it takes two to fight. And Jesus has taught me that the best way to deal with our enemies is to love them, to pray for them, to do unto them what we would have them do unto us, to do what we can to break down the dividing walls. Only love – holy love, powerful love, redeeming love – can truly swallow up brokenness and spit out harmony.
People in recovery understand that hatred and resentments against others will block the sunlight of the Spirit of their lives. No good will come of it. They are taught, in the 10th step, to carefully review their day, looking for their part in whatever happened where they were hurt or hurt others. Promptly admitting when they are wrong and seeking reconciliation, wherever possible.
So the Good Shepherd invites us to sit down at a table with our enemies – he even prepares the meal.
Let us pray: Dear Lord, work in us to unsettle us, not with resentment but with resolve, to work through brokenness, long held grudges, irrational fears, and all that separates us from those who would be our friends. Help us clean our side of the street. In Jesus’ name. Amen.