“Say you’re sorry.”
“Now say you love her.”
It was just another one of those episodes during which I was at odds with one or more of three brothers. They happened quite frequently. Usually there were ugly words and unpleasant attitudes.
My oldest brother teased me about learning to play the guitar as I sat at the piano tuning the instrument. He was old enough to know better, but then, what sibling is truly old enough to know better -- siblings are siblings and, well, you know the rest of the story.
It was not an expensive guitar -- plastic, in fact -- given to me by my grandmother as a gift to see if my interest in the guitar was real. After an eternity of taunting -- probably five minutes worth -- I took the guitar and in anger smashed it to pieces. Anger got the best of me, and my rear end got the best of my dad’s hand. I don’t know what happened to my brother.
My younger brother locked me out of the house one day after I had driven us home from school. In anger, I used my fist to bang on the plate glass window and eventually, it gave way and broke into pieces, cutting me and once again, getting the best of my dad’s hand. I don’t know what happened to my brother.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Jesus confronted the heart, the instrument behind every action. He contradicted traditional wisdom and turned the religious world upside down with his emphasis on motivation, love, mercy and forgiveness. You might say he was the master of contradiction and you might also say that rule-followers did not appreciate his brand of religion. Like so many of us, traditional Jewish religious culture focused on outward action. First there were 10 commandments and then there were 613. The truly “righteous” kept a daily list of the laws they had obeyed.
At the points when my parents were trying to teach their children to love their enemies (er… siblings), it was the last thing we wanted to hear. Perhaps you detect in the conversation at the beginning of this column the “sincerity” with which we apologized and claimed that we loved each other. You know it. We were not sorry, and at that point in time, we did not love each other. We were sworn enemies. Our words contradicted our attitudes.
It’s the last thing many believers want to accept when they begin walking the Christian faith journey. They want to hold on to the traditional attitudes and beliefs the world has taught them. Jesus came to contradict those attitudes and beliefs and to provide a better way to live.
Oh, and it is a difficult way to live. It involves choices that we’d rather not make, attitudes we’d rather hang on to, actions we’d rather attribute to “but everyone else does it.” Jesus was the ultimate figure of contradiction in history, and his way is the narrow way. Not everyone chooses to follow it. For those who do, it is fraught with failure, repentance and forgiveness.
No longer enemies, my brothers and I love and support one another. “Sry” and “ve oo” are no longer contradictions of our attitudes. “I’m sorry” and “I love you” are examples of changed hearts.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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