Here we are at the brink of a new school year. I, for one, am excited. Why you ask? Well, finally all three our kids will be in some form of school or another. Ryan is going to grade 3, Wesley into kindergarten, and Kaylie is starting preschool. I am hoping (and praying…. really really hard) that all of them being in school will teach them to relate to each other better and maybe gain some perspective on relationship and community. Why you ask? Well, because they kind of suck at it right now.
And you think I’m kidding.
There is a lot of fighting and bickering and crying at our house. Even if it is an accident they seem to get really angry at each other and all they can think about is revenge. It is always their turn and they very rarely want to share. And I guess putting them in karate wasn’t such a good idea because now when they fight, they’re getting better at it.
And while we do try to teach them their lessons and instill in them some sort of sense of forgiveness and grace, I am hoping that being in a school environment will give them more chances to practice it. At home, they only have 2 kids to annoy (and 2 parents), while in school they will have 20+ kids and a teacher or two. They will have more chances to practice apologizing (and meaning it) and accepting apologies.
With the 3 of them in school hopefully learning and practicing forgiveness, their mentalities will sort of line up and they won’t be this giant mess of fighting and crying and hurt feelings. One can only hope.
Many times we look at these instructions of Jesus on how we can or should treat others who have wronged us. We like to look at it like a checklist of things we must do before we can cut someone out of our lives. We even put these words in our church constitutions as guidelines on how to handle conflict and perhaps revoke membership.
But I am not sure this was really Jesus’ intention. Instead, I think Jesus’ intention in his words wasn’t so much to tell us what we can do to those who have hurt us in order to discipline them, but to teach us how we can treat those who hurt us so that we can forgive them. Yes, I know that he says we can treat them like the Gentiles, which many would regard as outsiders and those we don’t associate with. But Jesus would treat the Gentiles with respect, in spite of difference. Jesus teaches that even though we cannot agree, we can still live together in community and learn to love each other anyway.
In light of the rest of the passages about love and forgiveness, I think this is what Jesus would have us learn. While I admit that vengeance feels good and sometimes we cannot be happy until we have it, but a better way is to learn to love those who hate us, forgive those who hurt us, and bless those who persecute us. It isn’t an easy thing, of course, but given practice and prayer, we can always strive to be better in community and relationship. It also helps knowing that Jesus is with us always in those relationships, helping us to love and strengthening us to forgive, empowering us to live as children of God.
Have a great week, everybody!