Bless your persecutors. As Jesus also said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”
The world is full of people… all different, all having had different life experiences. These life experiences shape who we are. We, of course, are supposed to learn from our experiences and try and move toward greater goodness, which I believe all people try and do, it’s just that some of us aren’t very good at it. No one sets out to screw up their own life. Even someone who is self-destructive does so in the belief that it is in their best interest to destroy themselves.
All these different opinions. Understanding that most people are confused and frustrated, do you want their opinions to control your life? Of course not. Is your life dependent on the approval and blessing of every other human for happiness? If we have to depend on the goodness of everyone we meet before we can be happy and content, then it isn’t going to happen. We must decide not to let the confusions and frustrations of others be responsible for our happiness.
If someone says or does something to us, unless they physically assault us, it is only words. They may try and create obstacles to our happiness, but all obstacles are able to be overcome, even death. We have a choice as to how we react to the confusion of others. A man once heard of the placid countenance of the Buddha, so he went to see for himself. For days the man insulted and condemned the Buddha, but the Buddha never got upset or tried to retaliate. Finally the man asked him, “how is it that I have insulted you for days, and you take no offense?” The Buddha replied with a question, “If a man brings you a gift but you do not accept it, to whom does the gift belong?”
The teachings of Christ do work to bring us to the Kingdom of Heaven, if only we truly apply them, and I don’t mean to the Afterlife Country Club. By looking at nature, I see that God is far too industrious to retire us all after one mediocre lifetime. Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, as indeed it always has been, if only we chose to live in it. When we begin to practice non-judgment, the cornerstone of Christ’s teachings, we remove the offense from other people’s actions. We don’t try and condemn them for their uncharitable behavior, we understand that they are lost and frustrated, as certainly we have been from time to time. They lash out at what they don’t understand, not so much because our lives are a threat to them, but because they are unhappy in their own lives and look for someone or something outside themselves to blame.
The only way we can experience the peace which passes all understanding, is to love all. In actuality this is a totally selfish endeavor. It is our happiness and peace we are securing, but in so doing, we also add to the happiness and peace of the whole world. Blessing your persecutors is more for your good than for theirs. This doesn’t mean we are not to separate ourselves from distressing situations and people, but only when we pray for guidance and try to act from unconditional love do we know if there is anything we can do for our persecutor other than blessing them from afar. Some people are not ready to learn from us, but whether they learn or whether they do not, we have only one appropriate reaction. Love. Love conquers all. It is difficult. Every genuine accomplishment comes at the expense of diligent effort. Those that persecute us are our teachers. Without them we would likely be incredibly self-absorbed and a distress to our brothers and sisters, like a spoiled child that has never known sacrifice. One who has never know persecution, is unlikely to have full compassion for those who are persecuted, and is likely to contribute to the suffering of others through their ignorance.
You have to try it, to see that it truly works. When you accept that human relations are not a simple undertaking and, like every other discipline in the world, it requires study and practice of the appropriate techniques, then you recognize that most people don’t take the time to get good at it, they just play it by ear. If human relations distress us, then perhaps we should learn how they work best. Jesus knew how they worked best. He was not a preacher. He did not come to tell us to repent or parish. Paul seems to enjoy it, but Jesus had no time for it. Jesus came to teach us how to live in a universe we still don’t understand. Jesus came to teach us the Truth. The Truth that would set us free: free from bondage, free from fear, and free from worry of all kinds.
The Sermon on the Mount, beginning in the fifth chapter of Matthew, puts all the teachings in a tight little package. Judge not, lest ye be judged. All the persecution and condemnation done by the self-righteous throughout the centuries and today, is clearly not accepted by Jesus. Judgment is not a part of God.
For me, once I understood that these people weren’t right in condemning me, for anything, no matter what I did, even if I think it is wrong, they are still not to judge. It changed my attitude toward their condemnation, and them. No one is my superior, my judge. If they profess to live as Christians, or Buddhists, or Taoists, or Muslims, all these doctrines, say the whole of their teachings can be summed up by saying, “love your neighbor.” Even if they profess no religious ties or beliefs, they are in fact children of the same God, and only one thing works. Love. Recognize the desperate grasping of lost children in a world they don’t understand, and love them, and love yourself. You don’t have to hang out with them, but by loving them you free yourself from the poison of hate and condemnation. You free yourself completely, and you make it possible to effect a positive change on everyone and everything around you. Try it for a day; love everything — even the bad stuff. See what happens.
Love conquers all.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans do the same?” Matthew 5:44-46