When I was growing up, I had quite a temper. I often blamed it on my unlucky combination of Armenian and German heritages, but those excuses never really worked. If someone bothered or hurt me, I’d do whatever I could to make them feel as I felt. My mom always pushed me to censor myself. “Kill them with kindness,” she always said. Although I’ve grown out (some of) that, I still have to remind myself of this sage wisdom from time to time. After a particularly stressful week of classes starting, it was comforting to find this same theme in today’s portion of Paul’s letter to Rome. Here’s a part of the reading:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21, NRSV)
I’m sure many of us have moments of being hurt, offended, or even just annoyed with someone; and sometimes forgiveness and patience aren’t our first reactions. But we are children of God, called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I wonder what the world would look like if everyone followed this ideal. What would Ferguson look like? What would Israel and Palestine look like? What would Crimea look like? What would your home look like?
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he forgave and prayed for those who crucified him. Is there a better example of unconditional forgiveness and love? Of course not. So when you’re on your cross, or when you’re being emotionally attacked, or when you’ve just had all you can take of someone, don’t hate them but love them. Do what you can to serve them. Or, as mom would say, “Kill them with kindness.”