A couple days ago, I invited you to concentrate on someone who has helped you in this life, someone who has made you feel special in some way. Didn’t it feel good to stop and think about that person? Well, now I’m going to ask you to go the other way: think about someone you intensely dislike. Think of someone who makes your skin crawl or your blood boil every time their name gets mentioned. They might be a celebrity; they may be a family member. They may be a thousand miles away; they might be living in your own house. Do you have someone yet?
Now think of that person in context of these verses:
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
– Matthew 5:7-9
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
– Matthew 5:23-24
[Love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
– I Corinthians 13:5-7
And I could easily post more, but I hope you’re getting the idea. That person who irritates you – are you a peacemaker with them? Do you believe the best of them? Are you merciful toward them? Can you really say you have a Christ-like attitude about them?
I want you to try something: write down who the person is. Now list out five positive attributes the person possesses. Now if it’s someone like the President, you can’t write, “He’ll be out of office in a few weeks”. That’s cheating. Also, you can’t pick physical attributes: “She has a nice smile” and the like. Pick out five genuinely good qualities about the person, and jot them down. Think about it; five is not a big number.
Done yet? If you’re having a hard time coming up with five, I want you to think about something: chances are you don’t really know the person well enough. You’re mad at, for all intents and purposes, a stranger. You’re being unfair.
On the other hand, if you have come up with five seriously good qualities about the person, isn’t it harder to stay mad at them now? Why put the effort into it? Now, every time you feel angry at this person, get your list back out. Remember what makes that person great. They are a soul with the same shortcomings and the same needs as you, and maybe you could even help them a bit on their journey. Just shelve the prejudices, pet-peeves, and misconceptions; then focus on the positive, and start building a relationship.