When my husband was pastoring a small country church, I took a part-time job in a bank to help make ends meet. I liked my work and my co-workers. But one young woman frequently made remarks or did things to hurt me.
I found myself resenting Paula (not her real name), and feeling sorry for myself because I had to put up with her cutting remarks. Such things are known as abuse, and can quite ruin one’s day!
“Lord, how can I handle this?” I asked. “I want to live peacefully with everyone but it’s hard not to answer back. And when I don’t, it sort of lays on me like a rock!” It was hard also not to harbor resentment and anger toward Paula. But, I knew if I did that, it would rob me of peace and perhaps cause me to respond in kind.
Light from God’s Word
As I talked to the Lord, this verse came to my mind:
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (NIV).
Then I remembered Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about how to deal with those who hurt us. I decided to pray for Paula and seek God’s help in being especially friendly and thoughtful toward her.
It worked! Before long she and I became good friends, and what a difference it made in my work day! When my husband took another church and I left my job at the bank, Paula threw a wonderful going-away party for me!
Thus I found that love is God’s answer to hostility. What? Me love that unpleasant person who hurts me? Yes. The Lord Jesus gave this recipe in Matthew 5:44.
First, he told us to love our enemies and bless them. This sure runs against our earthly grain, doesn’t it? But the Lord can help us do that. And here’s how: Jesus also tells us to pray for our enemies.
As I have prayed for Paula and others who have hurt me, the Lord has helped me realize that something in their background has probably contributed to the way they speak and act. Often they are miserable people. This gives me a feeling of compassion for them and makes it easier to forgive and pray for them.
The Lord also told us to return good for evil. As we do this we will see God at work.
Heavenly Father, You know the places where I find it hard to respond with Your love and kindness. Please fill me with Your Spirit today so that I might have gentle words on my lips and prayers for those who are a challenge to love. Amen.
Is there someone in your life that is hurting you but who needs your love and your blessing? How will you begin returning good for evil?
By Muriel Larson
Used by Permission