Well, today came as my own “punch.” And a one-two it definitely was. You see, today is the birthday of two different people I used to consider friends. Unfortunately these people turned out to be quite toxic and I got burned badly by the toxicity they gave off. I’d like to think that these individuals, through the pain they put me through have made me a better person, that God placed them in my life to show me who I do not want to be and allowed me to endure what they dragged me through when I realized too late what was going on so that I would be stronger and begin to see that no human being is worth the allegiance we owe to God. But sometimes I forget that and I become angry and wounded and hateful again toward them.
Today’s Gospel reading is Luke 6: 27-38 summed up as “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and, “Turn the other cheek.” Of course that would be the Gospel reading on the birthday of two people I have to constantly keep forgiving because I cannot always forget what either has done.
So, that was punch number one.
And in punch number two…what am I upset about? Lies and gossip? How was I really persecuted? Did I react the way Jesus commanded?
In this rich land of ours we are outraged by the treatment of a woman who was jailed for standing up for her beliefs. And rightfully so, but our sense of justice and mercy seem stunted when it comes to those who are fleeing for their lives from foreign lands. For people who are escaping physical brutality that we cannot truly comprehend we have no compassion, no mercy, no sense of justice. Instead we are full of judgment for people based upon where they were born or the religion that they practice. We have placed Kim Davis on a pedestal for religious freedom high above the place for a young refugee boy washed up on the beach in Turkey. Because he might grow up to be radicalized.
Kim Davis was willing to sit in a reasonably comfortable jail cell for a few days and she is a hero. Ayalen washed up on the beach and we criticize his parents for wanting what so many of our ancestors (mine for sure) wanted. To not grow up being persecuted with violence and forced into a military regime.
I’m sure we can all agree there are degrees of persecution. So why is it our response is directly inverse to the degree of persecution and suffering?
For me, personally, it is a very small thing I have to forgive someone for. For these families fleeing ISIS? They faced persecution at home and now they will face it abroad by hoards of people screaming that they are being persecuted because some in their own countries are willing to extend mercy and compassion to people who have nowhere to lay their heads.
Even with people now lumping Catholics and Muslims together in making fun of Kim Davis, we are not persecuted as they are and as Christians, we are bound to that other command Jesus makes in this Gospel,
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. –Luke 6:36
If Jesus can’t knock the wind out of us…if He who is “I am” cannot shake us from our complacency…may God have that wonderful mercy on us all.