“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43-44
Two Sundays ago I was driving home from church. I was on the 610 Loop, right next to the Galleria, when I came up behind a car with a bumper sticker that said, “I would rather waterboard 1000 terrorists than lose one American life.” It wasn’t what I expected to see. I was intrigued. So I pulled up alongside to get a look at the person behind the wheel who would rather waterboard 1000 terrorists than lose one American life.
It was a little old man. Peeking up through the steering wheel. And I wondered about him for a bit. He didn’t look dangerous at all. I realized he would probably never be in a position to actually waterboard 1000 terrorists. But with every mile he drove, he was telling others that he would if he could.
I can understand the anger behind the message. This past Sunday began with the news of the bombing of the crowd at All Saints Church in Pakistan. That should make anyone angry, anyone with a heart, anyone who has ever loved anyone. Yet I still found myself wondering what good could come out of his messaging. What good would come from 1000 more families angry at the treatment of their own loved ones by those who use torture and violence to solve problems.
And, of course, I thought about the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. Our reptilian responses to the cruelty and violence of life might always leap to vengeance and violence. Fight or flight is humanity on cruise control. But Jesus knows us. He knows we have other options. He knows there is a better way.
The Big Book of AA says something along the lines of “we learned to pause when agitated.” That pause enables us to shift emotional gears, to shift into thinking rather than swinging, to act rather than react.
My daughter told me not long ago that she was having fun playing a new game in her mind. She was consciously and intently reminding herself throughout the day, as she noticed other people, just how much God loved each and every one of them. She told me that it was fun. It kept her attitude positive all day. It gave her joy.
Yes, in the immediate aftermath of hurt, it is hard to go there. But maybe if we spent more time there as a preventative measure, there would be far less hurt, and far more compassion, in the world today.
Let us pray: Dear Lord, you know us better than we know ourselves. You know how quick we are to react, to lash out, to resent, to judge. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.