Saturday, March 18, 2017
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9
No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9 (The Message)
“If praying in groups makes prayer more powerful, what happens when groups are hating or fearful together?” my friend asked. On a cosmic level, we didn’t know, but we agreed it couldn’t be pretty.
We do know a lot about what happens to a human body that’s suffused with hatred and fear. Biochemical patterns trigger predictable symptoms—an anxious wave of nausea, tightness in the chest that constricts the breath, activation of parts of the brain that shape our response options. It’s also easy to see how negative emotions harm our relationships, as we close ourselves warily from someone who’s hurt us in the past, or bristle with anger or irritation. And when some of us band together in hatred or distrust of others … well, the news is all too full of illustrations.
The gospel consistently, insistently, challenges us to turn the other cheek, to repay evil with blessing. These injunctions reflect profound psychological and spiritual truth. Franciscan priest Richard Rohr points out that we become mirror images of anything we fight too long or too intensely. After a while, we allow that which we oppose to frame the questions and determine our direction. So attuned to “the enemy,” we’re no longer attentive to the good.
A few days ago, as my three-year-old playmate covered me with yet another sofa cushion in our princess tent castle, she leaned over to ask solicitously, “Are you soft?” What a question. Is my heart soft, or am I constricted in resistance and rebellion? Am I open to love? Can I feel the spaciousness of life, am I receptive to possibilities, am I fertile soil for God’s renewal?
I’m reminded of the question in Micah 6:8: What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
• Read and reflect on a passage that warms and softens your spirit or speaks to your current distress (e.g., Psalms 8, 91, 103, 130, 131 …)
• Consider the thoughts that invade your mind first thing in the morning, when you have an idle moment, before you sleep. Do they deplete or restore you?
• Name an evil or insult that weighs heavily on you. What loving, generous action might you take today that would weaken or counter that situation?