Lent and Giving Up to Better Yourself
So, being a Catholic, of course I'm following Lent. This year I gave up my potty mouth, or at least I'm trying to. I want to be a better person, and how can I do that with a mouth like a sailor? I mean, plenty of good people curse but I feel that to be the best me I can be, I need to fix my mouth. I don't allow my kids to say those words, so I need to lead by example. Being super pregnant, the food restrictions don't always work, although I'm doing my best.
Every day of Lent, I get an email that is 40 things to give up for Lent and Beyond. They are great things, that even non religious people should take a look at, and today's was a big one. Everyday you are giving something to give up, scriptures, questions to consider, plans of action, and reflection.
Today's email recommended giving up Hatred. The reflection spoke to me more than anything else, so here it is:
It's definitely something to think about. Why live with hate in your heart? Love is the answer.
Yesterday we learned about the death of Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church. Fred and his church were known for picketing the funerals of dead soldiers. Their message was one of hate. We wonder how they would ever consider themselves a church or have anything to do with Christ.
Today many people will celebrate the death of Fred Phelps. It would be easy to join in and spit on his grave. Just as this man protested the funerals of so many others, there is a part of us that would like to do the same to his. But to do so would show that we are not that much different.
Jesus does not call us to respond to hate with hate. Hatred will destroy us. It will grip us, pull us, and lead us away from Jesus.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ Matthew 5:43 (ESV)
Hate your enemy! This is the way of the world. This is how the world responds to Fred Phelps. But Jesus goes on to say:
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:44–45 (ESV)
This is not easy to do. We can only do this when we are empowered by the love of Jesus. Jesus says to pray for those who persecute you. That is a revolutionary thought. It goes against every natural urge we have.
Prayer has a way of changing the way we think about other people. It’s hard to pray for someone and still be hateful towards them. When we start to pray for someone our hate begins to turn to grief. We grieve over the darkness of their soul. We grieve over the emptiness of their lives. We grieve they miss out on the love of Jesus.
I imagine Fred did not experience much joy in his life. When you are filled with so much hate, there is little room for love. I imagine Fred’s life was a very sad life. Even more saddening is that it seems Fred did not know the God of the Bible and the saving grace Jesus offers for sinners. Living apart from God’s saving grace leads to an eternity of misery and suffering.
Jesus calls us to live in a different way. This does not mean we honor Fred in his death. We might rejoice in his death, but we will not gloat in his death. We will not protest his death.
It is ever more important we respond with the love of God and live the love of God. There are other “Fred Phelps” out there who preach hatred in the name of God. If we stay silent about the love of God, how will they ever know anything different.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
It’s time to shine the light!