This Lent I’ve committed myself to several spiritual practices. The first is to write 40 reflections before Easter. Having come through a 6-month dry spell, the challenge of composing that many spiritual reflections is daunting.
But I have found the other discipline to be even more demanding: praying daily for national leaders and political advisors whom I hate.
Hate is such a strong word, isn’t it? And yes, I am guilty of harshly judging these people I do not personally know.
But their spoken and written words I find to be so self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, divisive, snarky, and at times, flat out untrue. I’ve allowed these men and women to become the enemies of what I believe; destroyers of what I understand as just and right. There are days after reading the news when I’m certain my blood is boiling.
“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. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus doesn’t mess around, does he?
I preached on this text last month. In preparation, I learned that to be perfect, or “telos” in the Greek, isn’t so much about moral perfection as it is about “reaching one’s intended outcome.”
We are to become whom God designed us to be which ultimately is a reflection of the Divine. Just as God is compassionate, forgiving, generous, and loving, we are called to be likewise. Apostle Paul describes it this way to the Ephesians in chapter 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God“.
Whether I like it or not, as a Christian I am NOT called to be a hater.
And whether I like it or not, God loves those national leaders and political advisors, just as much as God loves me.
And so…I pray.
I pray that peace will fill their hearts and Divine wisdom be ever-present in their minds.
Even more so, I pray for myself—because I have clearly not reached my intended outcome. Looking back at some of my reflections from last summer, it is evident I continue to struggle with judgment and hate. (sigh..)
So join me, won’t you, in praying this Lent?
Pray for the ones you love AND those whom you hate.
Pray for your own soul that the Holy Spirit might reveal even more how to be a dearly beloved Child of God.