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Bless my enemies, change me

Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies. Sometimes I have a hard enough time liking the people I love, how can I begin to love those who hate me?

The movie Fiddler on the Roof has a humorous example of blessing your enemy. The Russian town’s venerated elder Rabbi is asked if there is a blessing appropriate for the Czar. He replies, “Of course there is a blessing for the Czar…May the Lord bless and keep the Czar…far from us.”

That’s one way to approach blessing those who hate you. Pray that God will bless and keep them out of your hair. I have learned a different pattern for dealing with people I can’t see how to love. Try this two-step process. First, remember that God loves that person and wants what is best for them. Then begin to pray that God will bless that person and change you.

If someone has abused you, the abuse is his or her problem, but how you deal with the abuse is your own problem. One step is to get out of the abusive situation. The next step is to begin to pray that God will bless them and then change you.

For me, this prayer can start with clenched teeth. Sure I say, “Bless John Doe. Change me,” but I do it without quite meaning the words at first. Making the prayer a pattern, a routine, can help. You get used to praying for God to bless them. You get accustomed to the idea that you may also be the one who needs to change.

This prayer will not work with one repetition. It takes time for the prayer to really sink in. Every time the person makes you mad, or even comes to mind with less than charitable thoughts, repeat the prayer a few times.

Over time, it gets easier to pray that God really will bless the person who hates you, the person who has harmed you. That breaks the ground for God to make a real change in your heart. Whether the other person ever changes is not your problem. Your own change is more than enough to keep you busy.

Bless them; change me. Bless them; change me. It is not a reciprocal arrangement. You can’t pray this prayer just to get something out of it. You pray for the person who hates you because that is what a child of God does. What you get out of it is a chance to follow a teaching that Jesus perfected on the cross.

We can’t make people who hate us treat us well or play fair any more than Jesus could. But we can open up our own hearts to live more fully as God’s children. Jesus says that this comes as we try to love and pray especially for those we find the hardest to love.

Note to readers: In my last column I cited the wrong passage in reference to tithing. The proper reference is Malachi 3:8-12. I apologize for the error.

(The Rev. Frank Logue is pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland.) 

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