The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

March 05, 2012

Relentless Acts: Starving Hatred and Judgment

By: 
Scott Bessenecker

"BOSTON -- Crews demolished a house on Northern Boulevard on Plum Island Wednesday after officials decided beach erosion had put the property in danger of falling into the sea." (Watch the video here.)

After telling his followers to love their enemies and refrain from judging others Jesus asks them, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?”

If we call Jesus our teacher and master while maintaining an attitude of hostility toward our enemies (those who have made life hard for us or hurt us) and we continue to complain about people’s “issues” (scrutinizing their faults), it is like we’re building a house on the beach. It may look scenic and beautiful, but it will ultimately result in destruction.

If we take the context of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:46-49 seriously, located in his Sermon on the Plain, then the evidence of our conviction that Jesus is Lord will be best measured by our relationships with those who have mistreated us and our attitude toward those whom we view as screw-ups.

This is a frightening prospect.

If you go to “Google” and type, “why are Christians so…” the first three adjectives with which the engine attempts to finish the sentence are “intolerant,” “mean,” and “arrogant,” not “forgiving,” loving,” and “humble.”

While this may reflect some unfair projections placed upon Christians, this perspective about the followers of Jesus is not completely unearned. I have only to think about my passive aggressiveness toward people who have hurt me or consider how often I am frustrated by the immaturity of others to know that I contribute to the picture of Christians as intolerant, mean, and arrogant.

Lent is a good time to deny ourselves the food of hatred and judgment.

Not in some ethereal, mystical way, but very practically; starving ourselves of the practices which give us no foundation upon which to build our imitation of Christ.

Think of somebody who has made life hard for you … or in the words of Jesus, someone who hates you, curses you, or mistreats you (Luke 6:27-28). In addition to these personal enemies think about your “corporate” enemies: a political leader who angers you, a country which is hostile toward your own, a class of people you feel animosity toward (i.e. the super rich), or a group of people who have committed historic atrocities toward people with whom you identify. Rather than feed your hatred of these people, ask, “What would it look like to love?” Jesus suggests doing good to them, blessing them, and praying for them. This is a good place to begin.

For personal enemies there may be steps toward reconciliation you need to make. Perhaps you need to compose a note of encouragement or a written prayer of blessing for somebody who has hurt you (in some cases, maintaining healthy boundaries may mean you do not give this note to the person). Or how about cultivating a friendship with somebody who belongs to “that other group”?

If someone at work, church, or school irritates you because they talk too much or in their immaturity they convey that the world revolves around them, instead of judging them, reflect on ways in which you offer your opinion too quickly or indulge your own ego. Ask Jesus to help rid you of immaturity in your own life.

Houses built on the beach may look enchanting, but they will eventually face disaster. If you believe Jesus is the true and universal Savior of humanity and you do not act on his teachings, you are headed for disaster.

This week as InterVarsity and World Vision ACT:S examine how to sacrifice the things which feed us, put Jesus’ teachings into practice. Starve your hatred and judgment of others, no matter how well-deserved, and build your faith upon the foundation of action. Feed the scandalous, offensive, and disturbing love that befriends enemies and extends patience for those who are irritating while indulging humility and self-examination.

Scott Bessenecker is Associate Director for Missions for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He is author of The New Friars: the Emerging Movement Serving the World’s Pooramong other books and blogs at www.urbana.org/blog

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