It was Peter Marshall who reminded us: "The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation." What has been your "donation" this past year? Have you made a difference in the life of someone? Has your life been an instrument of grace and love? Have you encountered difficulties, but steadfastly stayed the course so others who will come behind you may see plainly what it takes to reach the next destination? If 2017 didn't end on the note you'd hope it would, there is always 2018 to improve the donation!
32 “Do you think you deserve credit for merely loving those who love you? Even the godless do that! 33 And if you do good only to those who do you good—is that so wonderful? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, what good is that? Even the most wicked will lend to their own kind for full return! 35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don’t be concerned about the fact that they won’t repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as sons of God: for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are very wicked. (Luke 6:32-35 TLB)
We don't deserve credit for living the way we should - God gets the credit for that one! He is the one who actually reminds us to not say that thing we are thinking about saying in the heat of the moment, or challenges us to get up and get moving when all we want to do is nurse some wound we have been allowing to fester. Loving as we should, doing good unto others, and turning the other cheek are great virtues and probably can be "learned" by a great many, but to truly say it is our way of life is something we cannot take credit for because it is God in us that makes this truly possible ALL of the time.
There is a stern warning to us in today's passage - even the godless do that. This means it is quite possible to be loving, but without the heart of God motivating that love from within us, it is love that has conditions. We can do good to those who are kind, thoughtful, and compassionate toward us - but to treat someone who cuts you off in traffic in such a loving way oftentimes requires more than a little patience or iota of understanding. We all have "good" moments in life - those times when we actually "get it right" in interacting with others and being the kind of person we are called to be. Those "good" moments are just that - moments. We haven't the power or capacity to make them a LIFE-LONG string of consistent occurrences apart from Christ's Spirit within us.
I am sure many of us enter this New Year with some form of strained relationships - either small or large - it matters not. We just don't always do well with others - not playing well in life's sandbox leaving us wounded and hurt in one way or another. It is possible we are nursing those wounds right here and now. There isn't any power within us in our "self-effort" that can actually restore that riff or heal those wounds. That strain is going to nag at you until it heals! Just as a strained muscle grabs at you over and over again until you finally pay attention to it, so will those strained relationships. There is no other way to deal with them than to begin to "undo" what has been done.
The "undoing" is always much worse than the "doing" ever was. It requires much more effort than we expended in the moments of time it took to bring that strain. If you haven't figured it out yet, healing takes way longer than the injury invoking event! To really heal from a serious strain in our physical body, we seek medical attention. To really heal from a serious strain within relationship, whether it be with another human or with God himself, we turn to the "professional" on that subject and that is Christ! We cannot heal on our own. We may "get through it", but the strain will always niggle at us. To no longer feel the strain, we need the healing touch of Christ. We can "hold out" or we can "go all in" - the choice is ours. The choice is best when it moves us into the arms of Jesus and allows him to heal what we haven't been able to do totally on our own. Then we trust him to show us how to walk as we should so we are not going to create that strain all over again. Just sayin!