Public debates at school were fascinating to me. I’d listen carefully to the first person presenting their point of view so clearly and was convinced it was true. That is until I heard the opposite point of view presently just as clearly, and then I didn’t know which one was true and who I’d decide to vote for. But at least they were polite. When I listen to discussions on TV today I find people are, by contrast, aggressive and hostile in their manner of communication. Ridicule, contempt and accusation are the normal way of speaking about those one disagrees with. It’s also hard to know who to believe, as it seems that everyone has a set of figures from a recent survey to prove their point. Then those in opposition assert that the information in that survey is completely wrong. I end up like Pontius Pilate, saying ‘what is truth?’ Who am I to believe?
How hard it is to keep our self control when others are difficult and provoke us. Yet the apostle Paul writes ‘And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone’ (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).
Our Lord Jesus was the ultimate example of patiently enduring evil. How did He respond when He was put on trial, falsely accused, flogged and put to death on a cross? In the midst of all that was going on in the Garden of Gethsemane He was kind to the servant who had his ear cut off. He healed him. He also forgave those who were crucifying Him and prayed for God the Father to have mercy upon them. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’.
Is it possible for any of us to demonstrate such loving kindness to our enemies? When Stephen was stoned to death he was filled with the Holy Spirit and was truly able to follow the example of Jesus. We desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit to have such kindness, for all things are possible as our character changes and grows in Christ-likeness. The Bible tells us ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires’ (Galatians 5:22-24).
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, may I be given strength in the Holy Spirit to be kind to everyone, even difficult people. Help me when I’m tempted to be unkind and harsh. Help me to grow more and more like Jesus, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
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