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I like most people. But like most people, I have people in my life that I don't get along with. Some of these people mistreated me in ways that are difficult to forgive and let go of, while others have personalities or habits that make me want to cross the street if I see them coming.
Recently while talking with one of these people in my life, they said something rude to me. What they said was irrelevant. What matters is my reaction. In my mind (because I would never say this out loud!), I said, "That's okay. If you hate me, I'll just hate you right back."
The pure nastiness of my thought startled me, and Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount instantly came to mind:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48 (NASB).
I doubt that you and I have many people in our lives that we can genuinely call an enemy, but if we are supposed to treat real enemies in this manner, what does that say about how we treat those people who have hurt us or just get under our skin? To further the work of Christ and to effectively witness to those outside the church, it is time for a change.
Forgive and let go of offenses. Forgiveness is important when dealing with major offenses that divide friends and create enemies as well as the small road bumps and potholes that can gradually wear down our relationships. Commit to forgiveness. Ask God for help, and remember that sometimes you have to forgive the same person for the same offense many times until you're able to permanently let it go. As you seek to forgive, put aside any anger you've been carrying toward them. It hurts you more than it does them, anyway.
Pray for those that hurt you. When you begin to sincerely pray for someone, you cannot hold on to any negative feelings you have toward them. Pray for them to be blessed. Pray for their relationship with God to grow. Pray for their families to be well. Pray for your relationship with them. It will probably be difficult, and you may not see any change in them, but you will find that it does change you.
Treat them with love. This may in some ways be the hardest one. When you've forgiven them and prayed for them, acting lovingly toward them may be easy in theory, but it actually involves interacting with them, when the first two do not. When you begin to change the pattern of the relationship, you are risking failure, both on your part and theirs. Someone who is used to unpleasant treatment from you is likely to respond negatively even to kindness. And a negative reaction from them will invariably bring about a negative reaction from you. Hopefully that will not be the case, but it is likely that it will take some time to turn around the relationship.
You may find that the relationship is irreparable because the other person is unwilling. Continue to treat them kindly and remember that seeking to pattern your life after Jesus is always beneficial, even if you don't gain a friend.
Jesus was a loving person, caring for all kinds of people and offered forgiveness even to the people who were instrumental in His death. If He can love even those who killed Him, who am I to be rude to someone who is rude to me?
"To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." 1 Peter 3:8-9 (NASB).