When there is a difficult person in our lives– someone who is not kind, who upsets or oppresses us in some way, who just makes life harder– we come up with a lot of solutions and are given various pieces of advice. We can unfollow them online; we can confront them; we can tell others about them and what they’re doing; we can avoid them; we can even cut them out of our lives.
But our Father has raised us differently.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” It’s hard enough not to speak badly of these people; it’s even harder to be generous of ourselves to them. Yet that’s what He wants us to do. He asks that we do nothing but good to those who do us wrong.
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” We are not to simply tolerate difficult people; we are to intentionally plan how we’re going to be good to them. It is to be a mission of ours to treat them with kindness, something we’re supposed to spend time and energy on; we make a conscious decision not to pay them back for the wounds they’ve given us, and to value and respect them instead.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We must do all we can to create peace; we have to do our part. Theirs? That’s theirs to worry about. It doesn’t matter how they behave, if our kindness affects them or if it doesn’t; their behavior has nothing to do with ours. Love has no conditions. Love doesn’t act in hopes that the person will change, it acts because that is what love does. Our kindness is because of who we are, not who they are.
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” Our Father knows when we are being mistreated. He sees it and it angers Him. And He is going to take care of it for us, with His own hands. We don’t have to fix it. He will do it Himself.
It’s all right there in Romans 12, and there is no fighting it. I know, because I tried to. The very day I read these verses, I dealt with various offenses from a difficult person in my life. I wanted to avoid them; I wanted to show them that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way; I wanted them to know what they were doing wasn’t okay; I wanted them to feel guilty. Then my Father pointed me to what I had read that afternoon, and I heard His soft, knowing whisper:
“Tessa… what’s our way? How do we do things in our family?”
Our family is one of grace and forgiveness. No one gets what they deserve– they are given gifts instead. We love people in ways that shouldn’t make sense. That’s what this family does.
It’s what my Father does for me every day. I deserve His wrath, yet I receive His arms.
I have to display loving acts and carry a loving attitude for the difficult people, the oppressors, the hurt-inflictors in my life. I don’t want to; my anger tells me I deserve to be upset and defensive. But I have to love. Because there is one thing I do want to do– I want grow into a way of life where I can look at myself and know: “I get this from my Father. He taught me this.”
I want to look like my Father. To love other people like He loves me.
Love is so counter-intuitive to what I’ve always known and done. I still find myself kicking and screaming about it daily, because it is so much easier to sink into my anger and self-pity than it is to love someone who doesn’t even like me. I’m learning something new, and that means I’m messing up all the time. But knowing that He has already nailed love and extends it lavishly toward me in this process? That makes me get up every day and keep trying.
[Important note I need to make: these verses do not ask us to stay in harmful, abusive relationships. They simply ask us to be kind, peaceful, honorable, and forgiving, no matter how someone treats us. If you are in a harmful relationship, you do not need to stay there, and I beg you not to. Be kind, seek peace, honor the human being, forgive them; you can do all of these things outside of the depths of that relationship.]