How do I respond to the “haters?”
“God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.” Max Lucado
When I prayed on the Connecting Point question this week, I kept hearing “I didn’t say it would always be easy.” I also kept hearing “I didn’t promise that there would not be enemies along the way.” I guess that’s what the term “haters” means today. As I understand the slang, a “hater” is someone that may like to gossip and diminish something you are doing. Or maybe it’s someone that likes to talk about how what they possess or do is “better” than everyone else. Or maybe it’s even someone that treats you differently because you live your life as a “follower” of Jesus.
In the Gospel reading this week (Matthew 5:38-48), we hear a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. One word jumps out at me… ”perfect.” But what does Jesus mean by perfect? We cannot obtain perfection, so what is the teaching here? The root word for “perfect” in Hebrew can be translated as wholeness, completeness, integrity or beauty. So, is Jesus asking us to live as we use the word “perfect” today OR is he teaching us to live in beauty and in complete awe of the Lord? Is he challenging us to live as joyful missionary disciples with integrity?
What happens when trying to live “perfect” draws the gaze of “haters?” I know I can speak on this from my perspective a bit. When I first had my “calling” to the Church in 2012, I had family members that snickered and would say things like “oh, there goes John with another mission.” I remember the “haters” got louder when I heard my calling to the Diaconate a few years ago. I was warned by a friend of mine that those “haters” could even appear as people close to you; the closer you get to the Lord, the louder the “haters” will get.
So, how to deal with it? The answer is right in the Gospel. “Perfect Love!” “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you, that they may be children of your Heavenly Father.” Jesus is teaching us to love like the Father loves us. We can never match that perfect Love of the Father, but we can pray every day to let the “haters” know we love them. You’d be amazed how some of the “haters” witness your love and start to change how they treat you.
May the grace of God help us all to love the “haters” perfectly.