“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 makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
That’s one of those sections of Scripture where I kinda mumble under my breath, “Thanks, Jesus.” After I fell from ministry, I felt like I had a line a mile long of people who were waiting to hate me. I earned it, but years later, a lot of them are still in line. A lot of you probably feel the same way. You may work with someone who just doesn’t like you or seems to have it out for you for whatever reason. But there is Jesus, telling us to love them.
I guess he could say it too. He loved those who put him on a cross.
So, let me change gears and dumb this down for a moment so even I can understand it.
I loooooooove peanut butter. I think it’s the greatest thing in the world. Some would disagree and say that it’s bacon. I’ve written about my own opinion on the matter, so we can leave that argument elsewhere. I’m writing about peanut butter today. If you love bacon more, then think about bacon when I say peanut butter.
Now, there are a ton of different brands of peanut butter. JIF, Peter Pan, Kroger brand, Skippy, whatever. There are also different types of these brands: smooth, crunchy, extra crunchy and the au natural that has the oil on top that you have to mix (nasty).
However, if you set a jar of peanut butter down in front of me, I would eat it. It might not be my favorite, but I would never declare it “inedible.” It would still be better than eating cake. That’s how much I love peanut butter.
Jesus said, “pray for those who persecute you.” It’s almost like he’ s saying, “Look, Christian. All those people in the world are like peanut butter to me and they all taste the same. I love every brand and every flavor. But you, in your imperfection make distinctions. So if you can’t love them like I do, start praying for them. They’re still peanut butter.”
Now this scenario may seem a little infantile or silly to you, but it works for me. I just view everyone I meet as peanut butter. I don’t hate anyone because they’re all a wonderful work of God. I may like some less, but they’re still an awesome jar of peanut butter. If there’s a problem with taste, it’s my problem and something I have to work through. Over the years, I’ve learned that in the end, some people think I’m the jar of nasty, oily peanut butter. But over time, God changes their heart toward me. And vice versa.
We’re all just a bunch of people who need understanding, compassion and love. Treating each other with hostility, unforgiveness, harshness or hatred will get us nowhere. However, when we treat one another like a 64 ounce jar of amazingly fresh JIF, then we will be making progress.
Still don’t get it? Then go ahead. Go back and read it again with bacon instead of peanut butter.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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