“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
I have spent a number of weeks both at home and in my “day job,” trying to teach compassion and kindness. Encouraging children to not point out differences as if they are an abomination. But learning to love and accept the differences we all have.
Many times I have failed. Thinking the bigger bully. The one with the loudest voice wins. At times I have been deeply discouraged. Feeling as if my effort to teach kindness and love is falling on deaf ears.
I have not been immune to bullies myself. Yes even adults are bullied. Even kindness warriors are treated unkindly. And in our home we have experienced what happens when a friendship goes sour, and a young girl becomes a target.
So despite the hatred, we seek to infuse our world with kindness. A love for all. To demonstrate and model these in the hopes that it will create a more kind, and less cruel world.
Love and kindness are both the way of Jesus.
But, so is prayer for those who are anything but kind.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27
But Jesus took the call to prayer even further. He didn’t just pray for those who were outcasts, or deemed unacceptable by society; he lived among them. And he was criticized and questioned each time he stood up or dwelled among the least of these.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law saw him eating with the sinners, they asked the disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” Mark 2:15-17
And it is what we should do. Call the sinners. Spend time healing the sick. Many times we focus on the victims, as we should. But what if we did something different…and prayed for that bully? Or the person we don’t like? The person who is mean and rude to us day after day?
Jesus was clear when he called us to minister to the “least of these” in Matthew 25:40. He was clear that we are to feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Welcome the stranger. Stand up for the oppressed. Visit the prisoner. Love the unloveable.
Even the most unloveable bully.
This kind of love may make you an outcast. It may scare some folks who don’t embrace different. Praying for the bully is radically different. But we are called to be all these things. Because we are called to be like Jesus, and call the sinners.
So, next time you find yourself lamenting about the harsh words of another person. The actions of a bully. Or the cruel and hateful world. Speak the following in prayer instead:
Lord, I pray that you give them a new heart and put a new spirit in them. Lord remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26
Remember to pray for the least of these. Encourage the least of these. Build up that bully. Sit amongst those who are not like you. Who may make you cringe, or hurt you. Because you may be the only one who is praying for them. The only one who is praying for their heart to be changed.
And because it’s what Jesus would have done: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”