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 5:43~47
I was deeply moved by this Lenten passage. It epitomizes what I need to strive for in my journey of faith.
In one sense I have come pretty far in that journey, for I no longer find the having of faith to be that difficult. To be sure, faith has never come easy and it probably never will, but if you ask me the pointed question “Do you believe in God and His son Jesus Christ?” the answer I would give is an unequivocal “Yes.”
But having faith and living it are two very different things. If action speak louder than words, as the old cliché goes, then my proclamation of faith is drowned out by my everyday behavior.
Regarding this shortfall, I am very much self-aware. Of all the challenges in my life, the living of faith is probably the one I find most difficult.
There are so many reasons this is so.
For one, I aspire to live a full life, filled with numerous things that occupy my time like friends, work, hobbies and curiosities. I’m constantly stimulated and rarely find a moment of boredom, but I confess, faith is not what mostly occupies my mind, heart and soul. I feel in touch with faith whenever I have moments to reflect, but those moments are few and far between. In the day in and day out, in the every moment of every hour, my faith takes a back seat.
My personality also doesn’t help.
I am passionately opinionated about everything, which also means that I can be highly judgmental. There is not a moment that goes by that I’m not judging a person to be good or bad or right or wrong, and cutting loose in my mind the people who fall into the latter category. I am terrible at forgiveness, regarding which my take is “why is there a need to forgive the bad and the wrong?”
That attitude, of course, is entirely at odds with Christianity. As Jesus taught in the Matthew passage above, what the followers of Christ are called upon to do is to forgive the unforgivable, as Jesus Himself exhibited when he forgave those who nailed Him to the cross.
I realize I fall woefully short of this standards set by Jesus, yet there is a part of me that has remained unapologetic. I cannot help but ask: if God created every person in His image, then am I not in His image despite my inclinations to judge?
It is only recently that I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to change this line of thinking.
For the last couple years, I’ve concluded every prayer with the request that Jesus remain with me always, realizing that my moments with Him are fleeting, but recently, I’ve been adding that I may live my life more like Him, in the recognition that I am ever imperfect.
This Lenten season, I have made a commitment to do my own part to bring those prayers to fruition, to at least make an effort to act the way that Christ would have acted.
That means I don’t judge, I just observe.
That means I don’t dismiss a person for his or her perceived shortcomings.
That means I treat every person, no matter how perceivably indecent, with dignity and respect.
That means I cherish every life and lament the loss of any.
That means I don’t get angry with perceived slights, against me or others.
That means I forgive even if the wrong is seemingly unforgivable.
And that means I become always mindful of how Christ would have acted, despite all that is going on in my life.
None of this will come easy, for they represent a fundamental change in the way I go about my life.
In fact, I’m very likely to fail.
But during Lent, I have made a commitment to try. That may not be much, but I’d like to think that it is a major step forward in my every continuing journey of faith.