A bitter-hearted rebel lives in many of us. We hate it when someone takes advantage of us. We view the lane-changing, frenzied, aggressive driver as a jerk and sometimes look to get even with him or her. This bitter-hearted rebel also lived in many Jewish hearts. When Roman soldiers imposed on them to carry their equipment, they resented it deeply. Jesus reminds us, however, that his Kingdom family reorders all human relationships. Jesus wants us to ask, "How can I be a redemptive blessing even toward those who mistreat me?" His challenging commands awaken us to our responsibility as God's children. We are to lead others to Jesus, even those others that we don't particularly like. Incredibly, the impetuous Peter learned this lesson and taught the churches in Asia Minor the same principle.* Even more incredibly, the apostle Paul (originally known as Saul) was at first a persecutor of Christians but then became the product of a movement that from its very beginning sought to convert, not condemn, its greatest opponents and oppressors.** But then, the heart of the Kingdom is to follow a King who forgave his persecutors, revilers, and murderers at Passover so they could become his disciples at Pentecost.
Compassionate Father, please give me the grit and grace to act redemptively in the lives of even those who are irritants, opponents, and problems in my life. Through your Spirit, soften my heart that I might see your goal of winning even the most difficult people in my life to Christ, rather than trying to get even with them. In Jesus' holy and precious name, I pray. Amen.