Have you ever known someone to misuse spiritual scriptures to fight physical battles? A condescending remark can be relabeled ‘speaking truth in love’ (Eph4:15). ‘If it hurts your feelings, it’s because it’s the truth’ (Mat5:11; Luk6:22). If you want to be really cutting, you can end a conversation with, “I’ll pray for you.’
Have you ever sat through a conversation and knew that something about it was wrong, but couldn’t put your finger on it until it was too late to do anything about it? Some conversations are like train wrecks. You sit and watch in disbelief as it all goes down and think of all the things you should have said later.
This is where hateful letters are born. You write them two days later and show evidence that you’ve been stewing.
You can’t let difficult people take up any of your headspace. You can’t make sense of what sounds like nonsense. You’ll get yourself worked up as you go over conversations and body language. Rude behavior, condescending laughs, snide remarks. It will eat you alive.
So, you shift your focus and put your energy into something else. You pray for them. Have you ever payed attention to the way you’re praying for them? ‘God, help them, they’re so deceived.’ ‘God, help me know how to speak ‘truth in love.’ You’re assuming that you’re right. You sound just like them.
You are very seldom (if ever?) right when you’re sizing up the character of another’s heart.
Think about what is true for you. Do you always come across the way you really are inside? Have your intentions ever been judged based on a superficial evidence? It happens to all of us, yet we don’t notice how often we do it to others.
If you’re trying to drown out the anger that simmers inside of you by praying for the object of your anger, your prayers have a tendency to be selfish and full of pride. The core of you can be peace-loving and tender, but you are misunderstood. False assumptions evoke anger. You attempt to drown out your anger with a prayer that your ‘enemy’ can see that you are a good person and that you are not the way they’ve painted you.
Do you see that your prayer is about you? You no longer want your integrity questioned, so you spend your time praying that they see you as ‘good’. Jesus was misunderstood. His integrity was questioned. Why shouldn’t yours?
Are the opinions of others so important that your prayer life centers around you?
“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others…” -Luke 6:26
Instead of praying for others according to the way you see them, ask God to let you see them the way He sees them. He gets it right. When He shows you, then you’ll know how to pray. God knows why we are the way we are and it causes an overwhelming sense of compassion. If you knew others the way God knew them, you would be overrun with compassion, too.
Compassion is empathy, fellow feeling, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness…
Compassion is the opposite of indifference. An indifferent heart is not ‘actively’ angry or troubled. The danger is when a person thinks that indifference is evidence of ‘deliverance’ or ‘peace.’ Indifference is poison. A silent killer.
You cannot forgive without compassion. You cannot love without compassion. If you cannot forgive, you cannot be forgiven. If you cannot love, then you are as good as dead.
Relationships aren’t trivial matters. God honors your rules of engagement (Mat18:33). Why else do you think loving others the way you want to be loved is one of the top two instructions Jesus gives us (Mar12:29)? It goes hand in hand with loving God. You can’t love God if you don’t love others. You can’t love others if you don’t love God.
If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. -1 John 4:20-21
Relationships are the barometer for your faith. A broken relationship in the Body of Christ is evidence of a broken relationship with Christ. You don’t have one ‘right’ brother and one ‘wrong’ brother. If one is ‘wrong’ we’re all wrong. If we are ‘one in Christ’, when one has fallen, we’ve all fallen. That is why we cannot leave a brother who fell along the path.
We’re leaving ourselves and are, therefore, left.
A person’s abrasiveness toward you may not even be about you. If you take it personally, then you won’t know how to pray for them. Pray for the ability to see them the way God sees them. That’s the only way you can have compassion.