Brian McLaren writes about a time when a white South African told him how receiving compassion changed his entire being.
“During the apartheid years, this man believed what he was told by white authority figures namely, that those working against apartheid were evil troublemakers rabble-rousers, communists, and heretics.
Chief among the troublemakers was an activist Anglican priest named Desmond Tutu.
Once, walking through the airport, this man saw Tutu coming toward him. Overcome with rage, he moved toward Tutu and roughly, intentionally bumped him as he walked by.
Tutu, much smaller in stature, fell down, landing on his backside with a thud. When Tutu opened his eyes, angry blue eyes glared down at him with a sneer of obvious disdain, only to see Tutu’s shocked and dazed face gradually focus and form into a smile.
“God bless you, my child,” Tutu said, his brown eyes gleaming with an impossible mix of compassion and mischief.
The man stomped away, all the more infuriated because Tutu found a way to transcend his act of hatred. During the hour and days that followed, the words of blessing echoed in his memory, and gradually that big, proud white man was brought to repentance by a simple, spontaneous blessing. Tutu’s nonviolence wasn’t simply a political strategy; it was a spiritual practice. It was rooted in this practice of praying for others.
The only way we will learn to respond to violent actions with nonviolent actions is by learning to respond first with nonviolent words—
words of blessing, not cursing,
words of prayer, not revenge,
words of compassion, not retaliation.”
When we are hurt by others (or when we are afraid of others), we are tempted to dehumanize them.
We label them with words like “evil,” “insane,” “heretic,” “fundamentalist,” “liberal,” or “infidel” to name a few. I’m sure you can come up with a few more!
Regardless Jesus taught us our first response should be to pray for them and bless them.
Love Your Enemies
…28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30“Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.…
Thoughts to Ponder:
- Who is someone that you feel animosity towards that perhaps you could offer words of blessing instead of words of anger or disdain?
- What must happen internally first before you can offer those words?
- Perhaps pray for “Help” first from God, then pray for God to bless them, support them, whatever it is you can pray for on their behalf, and then acknowledge that sometimes we can’t “let go” immediately . . . but that when we offer the prayer to God (using the word “please” is helpful), God can love with love we may not yet have.
- What if we try it today?
 McLaren. Brian. Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words. P. 137. Harper Collins.