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by Grace Bellingham
Have you ever wondered what Jesus was talking about when He said,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
Through the years I have struggled with the, shall we say, practicality of this. Just how do I love my enemies, or what does it take to bless the people who are cursing me? How do I do good to those who hate me, and just what do I pray for those who spitefully use me and take pleasure in persecuting me? I don’t know about you, but I was having trouble getting a grasp on what my Lord was trying to teach me.
I was watching a story on TV the other night. It was about a woman whose husband had fallen from his horse and hit his head; a pack of wolves had then attacked him and had torn him to pieces. He and his wife owned a ranch together and had a young son. She was the one who found him, and her hatred for the wolves and bitterness over the incident were evident to all who knew her. She now considered herself all alone in her struggles and was convinced that no one else understood just how painful her life had become.
She loved her son dearly and spent his growing up years sheltering him from harm in every way she could and worrying over his safety every day. It made her appear harsh to him and uncaring, strict and confining. She even wanted to sell the ranch when he turned seventeen and move to San Francisco so he could see how the rest of the world lived. She had grown to hate ranching. He wanted nothing to do with moving. He love ranching; it was in his blood.
She decided to go up the mountain to her cabin for three days and think things over—alone time! On her way there she passed a stream and a she-wolf was staked there in a trap. It startled her horse and she fell—breaking her leg and hitting her head. As she came to, she realized that she was as trapped as the wolf. The wolf was growling and snarling at her and sounded like she was going to tear her to pieces. Her efforts to get away were futile—her horse had run off and her leg/foot was broken. She took stock of her situation and made herself as comfortable as possible to wait for help. The temperatures were below freezing and she had limited food, etc.
The longer she was trapped the more she saw her own anger in the wolf. The wolf was angry and mean, snarling and growling at her even though she was as trapped as the woman. She began to take pity on the wolf and pushed food over to her, sharing her meager fare. Then she pushed water over to her, all the while the wolf continued to snarl and growl at her.
She began to tell the wolf how angry she was at her and how they (the wolves) had ruined her life. She told her how they had destroyed her life and taken from her that which was precious to her. As she talked she began to see just how angry she was and how it had affected her judgment about so many things. The longer she was helplessly trapped she began to see how the she-wolf was as well. At one point she hobbled around to find wood for her fire and found two wolf pups—abandoned. Obviously they belonged to ‘her’ wolf and she carried one back with her and the other followed. Well, the reunion was delightful and she was thrilled for the she-wolf, taking real pleasure in blessing her with her babies.
As time progressed she was growing more and more faint, as was the wolf. She could hear the poachers coming and knew if she didn’t free this wolf all would be lost, they would kill her for sure. In order to free her she had to risk being bitten by the wolf as she reached to cut the cord tying her to the trap. With all of her heart she wanted to set her free; the anger toward the wolf had turned to love for her through meeting her needs and doing good to her.
She risked all and crawled toward her—reaching toward the wolf’s ankle to snip the cord with wire cutters. The wolf just stood there—trusting her to do good to her just as she’d already done time and again. When the wire was cut the wolf shook her foot loose and stood still staring at the woman—she understood the price that had been paid. As the poacher approached she shooed the wolf away, the wolf stopped several times as if she was thanking her and wanted her to know how grateful and how aware she was of what the woman had done for her.
Through it all I saw a real illustration of what Jesus was saying when He said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you.” Until I saw how her acts of kindness toward that wolf (her enemy) transformed her, I didn’t fully understand. In loving and doing good, blessing and praying for our enemies, love for them is produced in us and we turn from anger and bitterness to gratitude and joy.
Her life was transformed; the joy of living was restored to her, as was her son and her ability to love and be loved. They began to love ranching together, and their lives took on a new beauty and fullness. Jesus knew what He was saying; He was living among us that same kind of life. He went about doing good, loving and blessing and praying for everyone He met. He knew that one day He would pay the ultimate price for love and die for the sins of mankind, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Being like Jesus comes with a price for sure, but the reward is the change within us that enlarges us as people, making room not only for our own mistakes, but also for the mistakes and problems of people all around us. God uses these kinds of things to enlarge us and give us greater depth of understanding for the needs of people. When it all boils down, what else is there? People and relationships are what God uses to develop us into the child of God that He needs us to be.