A heart transformed can change the world – and it starts with me.
Often times when I feel like I’ve been wronged in relationships, I go to this place of inner dialogue and tell myself all the ways that I’m justified in being upset. I inwardly complain about the other person’s behavior and justify my own bitter response. I make a mental list of all the ways that they were wrong and I was right. But the truth is, relationships are complicated, and as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. As much as I would like to live in a perpetual pity party where I am never wrong, and the problems of the world could be blamed on everyone else… God has called me to something greater.
I think maybe Peter wrestled with a similar inner dialogue too. In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter asks, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
If I’m completely honest, I have a hard enough time loving the people who love me, not to mention my neighbors, and yes even my enemies. Yet, this isn’t an excuse not to try. What if I intentionally took small steps to make the effort to transform my thinking? What if instead of rushing to judgment when someone wrongs me, I seek first to understand and offer compassion? What if when someone cuts me off in traffic I respond with grace? Or what if I choose to forgive my friend for the thoughtless comment that hurt my feelings rather than posting passive-aggressive remarks on Facebook? What if instead of getting defensive with my Spouse and shooting back with a snarky remark, I said “I’m sorry”?
What if my small gesture of love, can have an impact beyond what I can see? Maybe the rude clerk at the grocery store is going through a divorce. Maybe my teenager’s bad attitude is a result of mean comments by a peer at school that day. Maybe my husband’s short-fuse is the result of rumors of job cuts at work. And maybe my smile or hug is just what they need to change the trajectory of their day.
You see, just as Mother Theresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” I too can take small steps that can make a big difference in the world. And it all begins with a change of heart. By shifting my perspective and looking to Jesus for guidance, and for cues on how to love well, I can be a better beacon of light in this hurting world.
When Jesus came to earth, He threw the whole idea of “an eye for an eye” out the window. He flipped the script on humanity with a radical love that tells us to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31) So perhaps instead of jumping to judge and thinking of ways to get back at the people who have wronged me, I could take a page from Jesus’ playbook and treat them with the kindness I would hope someone would show ME when I mess up.
By first acknowledging that I have a part to play in each relationship and interaction I have with others, I can better recognize that my response to conversations and situations is the only thing I can control, and I am better able to temper my reply. Instead of jumping to conclusions and rushing to play my inner dialogue of blame, I can instead choose to take a breath and ask questions to understand where the other person is coming from. I can choose to have compassion when someone has wronged me and by showing love to others (even when they maybe aren’t deserving) I am showing a glimpse of how Jesus loves me.
And isn’t this what it’s all about? Loving God and loving others as He first loved us? So today I encourage you to take a moment to stop and think before you speak. Take an inventory of your heart and ask yourself if the response you’re giving is honoring to how Jesus wants you to love others.
Choose today to take small steps towards more grace, more understanding, and more forgiveness and be the change you want to see in the world.