Love your enemies

Disappointed with God (and Salmon Giveaways)

This month, on Kodiak Island, it is raining almost every day.

We are mending our fishing nets in the cold and rain. We don’t love it. (But I did get our wonderful crewmen to smile for a moment!)

 

 I am not too holy to complain: I want to graduate to a real summer. I want a promotion to another job.

 

And, this week, a small heartbreak too. No, let me be more honest: a big heartbreak that I'm not sure will ever go away. What to do with all this disappointment, small and massive? I know you are carrying some today too.

What else to do but Cross the Waters, then, to a time and a place that yields unending truth and fruit? Especially with something to say about disappointment. 

In last week's post, Jesus showed up on a Palestine beach and snagged a ragtag gang of the least likely followers ever: Scaly fishermen, a revolutionary, a tax collector and other men not known for anything in particular. 

These men have done the incredible unthinkable: when Jesus said, “Follow me,”----they did. They dropped their nets, left the tax booth, the secret Blow-Up Rome meetings. They gave up their families, their jobs, what little security they had to tag along after this maybe-rabbi.. Why? This maybe-rabbi might be the Messiah---and everyone knew what that meant: He’s going to Make Israel Great Again! Rome will be Crushed like a Bug! The Temple will be Restored! The Kingdom of God is coming! Sound the trumpets and Grab a Sword!

 

But in those first weeks, Jesus must have disappointed them. Again and again.

Their first stop, a wedding. Water turned magically into wine. Can you imagine what they thought?

“THIS is the miracle? THIS is the Messiah’s power? We’ve left our father high and dry for this? We need him to restore the Temple, save our people---and instead he saves the host embarrassment for running out of wine?”   ----Simon Peter, former fisherman

James is ready for battle, not a wine-tasting at a wedding. Andrew wants to see the Roman Empire collapse, want its ruin. Wine? John longs for the days of fasting and atonement, when the people mourn over their sin. The kingdom of God is coming and this is what we get----wine? A wedding?  Feasting? Where’s the blood?

 

         Not long after the wedding, they sat on gentle hillside with thousands of the sorriest mass of villagers from around the sea. Jesus seemed to collect them: the ones every other leader ignored, the kind of followers no one else wanted: the sick and weeping, the lame and palsied. It could not have happened, but it did---the mute wagging their tongue to sing! Crooked legs made straight! The blind watching the flight of a hawk! It was a riot there on the hill for hours! The start of a revolution? This was more like it! This was promising indeed! Maybe he’s raising an army! But then, what’s he teaching?  They could not believe his words at first:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Blessed are the pure in heart, the peacemakers, Blessed are those who are persecuted, Blessed are you when others revile you . .love your enemies
 

 

"Love your enemies What is this?" Peter and James, John and Andrew must have wondered. This does not sound like a triumphant Messiah! And maybe a few of them felt confused.  "Don’t bless our need, our emptiness and poverty. Don’t tell us this is blessing. Change it! Take it away! Just like you fixed all those legs and hands and eyes. Fix us! Be our king and vanquish our enemies!"

Jesus kept going.  “You have heard that it was said.”. . .  and now he was talking about adultery, taking oaths, divorce, an eye for an eye. But this rabbi changed the words. He didn’t do as the Pharisees did, who tightened the noose around every command from God to make it smaller, harder, and longer. This man opened up the words to make them larger, generous, capacious even, opening up a meaning that penetrated straight to their hearts. And scaring them as well:

Give him your other cheek to strike as well, give him your cloak also, do not worry about your life, go the second mile, pray in secret, forgive their debts, do not judge.

Everyone who heard these words were astonished. Astonished! And 2000 years later I am astonished too.

What is this kingdom you’re giving us, Yeshua? Love our enemies? Here, strike my other cheek, too? Here, take my last cloak? We who have little----are you taking even our "little" away?

And later, after those words, where did he eat and drink, whom did he consort with but the worst of men and women: traitorous tax collectors, prostitutes, the greedy,  those as broken on the inside as the ones on the hillside hospital that day. How disappointed and shocked they must have been. 

But maybe they began to see it.  Do we see it now? Maybe this man has come to save us not from Rome or any human government, but from ourselves. And maybe this new kingdom is a place of such surfeit, such unending provision, such upside-down bounty that what is given up and given away is not lost? Maybe heaven is beginning right now, and the guilty are forgiven, meekness is winning, the persecuted are blessed, the reviled are loving their revilers, the mourners are being comforted, the pure in heart are seeing God, the thirsty and disappointed are already being filled? 

Yes. I see it too.

When I finish these words, I will go out and stand in the rain until 10 tonight with my family and crew, mending net. I will not forget my heartbreak, but these words will pulse and echo all the while, mending me. 

 

This week, I'm also smoking salmon and I'd like to send some out. I'll send out 2 small boxes of my jarred smoked salmon and my famous Wild Rose Petal jam, both made here in my kitchen and the smokehouse:

 

Friends, listen. Giving away stuff is fun. But what I care about most is that these words go out to those who need them. This is a way of encouraging you to help me share the gospel good news.  Here' show to enter the salmon and jam drawing:

1. Find 5+ friends you know would like these weekly journeys into faith (and Alaska).

2. With their permission, send their email addresses to heidionia@yahoo.com where they will be added to the list of weekly subscribers.

3. Let me know you've done this in the comments below or by email (leslieleylandfields@gmail.com). Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to the comments so you'll find out if your name is drawn!

Thank you, and may God meet you in your disappointments this week!

 

8 Ways to Love Your (Hateful) Neighbors

I am just back from sitting in a circle of whales. Five fin whales, the second largest whale in the world, galloped and blasted their immensity just feet away from my trembling body.  I am lousy with love. I see it everywhere this week:


















Which brings me to the topic at hand: Hate. And specifically, haters. We all have them in our lives.

If you hold to any political position and you enjoy discussing honestly and fairly with others, you have them.

If you are different from others in your family, you likely have them.

If you're a writer and you posit thoughts in an online journal or magazine or blog about a controversial subject---or, heck, any subject at all, you will attract them.

If you're a writer who writes from a position of faith, you're in the worst position of all: you're drowning in them. 


 Why are so many Christians so mean to one another? Why have we so little grace for one another? And let me be more specific: why are so many Christians so mean and graceless online?  




 Nearly every article I've published online has awakened the ire of two or more Perpetually Irate Christians who are trying to Save the World from Apostates. This week, one of my pieces (Yes, the gender piece) has received a lot of spread, discussion and shares---and some astonishing comments. As in, astonishingly hateful. As such things always go, the responses are based on misreading, misinterpretation, logical fallacies and projection of the commenter's own experiences and fears upon the writer. These two men go so far as to cast aspersions on my marriage, and of course on my faith and salvation. 



(One commentator feels sorry for my poor husband whom I'm clearly abusing and in charge of. If you know my husband, you will die laughing at this!!)


These kind of readers not only attack the writer, but they also lie in wait and pounce on anyone who might support the writer's view. 


How do we love these PIC's in our lives? And love them we must. They are our onscreen neighbors, at the least, and even if they're our enemies, we're still called to love. 






Here are some possible ways we can Love our Hateful Readers:

1. Love them by doing for them what they have not done for you: listen respectfully before reacting. Align yourself with their words first rather than against their words as you read. Despite the hate and the hurt, there may be truth and corrective there that you can profit from. IF so, then----

2. Love them by thanking them for their interest and time, and for that helpful piece of advice or corrective. Identify what was helpful. Shower grace upon gracelessness (But only if you can do it sincerely.) 

3. Love them by staying silent, no matter how outrageous the accusations against you. Don't feed their dis-ease by responding. There are many dear people out there with mental and physical health issues whose only social outlet is the internet. Any response at all may prolong both your pain and theirs.

4. Love them by listening between the lines for the real issue, the deep hurt that they're writing from. If the Holy Spirit prompts, respond kindly and with concern, not to the issue at hand, but to their own experience and well-being.


5. Love them by calmly and respectfully inviting further dialogue with them through personal email rather than a public site. But only if prompted by the Holy Spirit and only out of concern for them rather than for a righting of your own reputation.

6. Love them by reminding them you are a real human being with feelings, a family, a dog, and kids you're trying to get through school. In other words, help them re-attach words on a screen with the human beings who wrote them.   




7. Love them by praying for them. Yes, really. They are likely more hurt and damaged than you are. 

8. Love that reader and love your future readers by not allowing the hurtful commentators to steal your voice and shut you down. Too many writers I know have given up on publishing because of the haters. This is the least loving response of all. 

And do you know----like this, some attackers have become allies, some antagonists have become partners, some enemies have become friends? It is true.








One more thing. 

What do we do when other writers are under attack? Don't engage with the pit bull commentator. Write a note of encouragement to the writer herself in the comment thread. Let her know how much you appreciate their words.  Simple words of thanks mean SO much to writers. I have been the  grateful recipient of so many kind commentators. In the midst of the many doubts and hurtful words, those words help keep us going. 




There is never enough love or grace in this world. And do you know who needs love more than anyone? Yup. The haters. 

Go out and love them kindly and well. Onscreen and off. As the Lord has flung his profligate mercies upon us, let us do the same for them.