My three month old son is the ultimate extrovert. If you have two eyes and they are gazing in his direction, he has a smile for you and something to say. It doesn’t matter if you are a blue, googly-eyed monster, a purple smiley face in his book, or well, a human. He does not discriminate. He will stare at you and that chubby-checked look will communicate that you are the most wonderful thing he has ever seen.
I was thinking about how readily he smiles today, and began to wonder, when does that stop? When will he realize that not all eyes are alike, that not all people are equally deserving of his love and attention?
My 2 ½ year old has always been social as well, sharing her love and smiles in abundance. But she’s started to figure it out. She is all sugar until you have what she wants. Then you are the enemy, standing in the way of her joy, and she will do what she has to get the orange baby bottle or the specific broken plastic phone or whatever it may be, back.
And so it goes with age. People are worth our time, energy, and joy until the comment cuts a little too close to home, the decision affects our wellbeing a little too directly, or the action inconveniences us a little too much. I leave my house loving the world, ready to go out and be the hands and feet of Jesus, until I get stuck behind a car that is going under the speed limit, because the driver is talking on the cell phone. Said person (yes, this inconsiderate being IS a person) does not even need to be driving recklessly, just slowly, and it is enough to change my loving smile into an irritable scowl.
People love to use the driving example as a way to demonstrate that sin affects even the holiest of us. I used to think I was above this, getting in the car, not really caring how long it took me to get somewhere. Now, I live forty minutes from most of my friends, and well, turns out even I am susceptible to these negative driving emotions.
In Matthew 5:44, Christ says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” That seems like an easy command for my baby to keep, he who lives in a land of oblivion, with no idea of the terrible things that person has said or done. That person who was mean to my children, or disagreed with me on subjects that clearly I know more about, or was given the opportunity that I deserved.
Yet, the other night, one of our professor’s wives, who has been in the ministry for what seems like forever, reminded a room of future pastors’ wives, that the gospel is about forgiveness! These mean, arrogant, covetous people are the people who Christ died for. Oh wait, I just described myself. Christ died for me and his death and resurrection covers all of my sins. I have been forgiven, and because of this, the aforementioned commandment is not impossible. In fact, obeying it, genuinely loving my enemies, is about the best way to spread the love of Christ. This is important to be constantly reminded of, regardless of age.
As an aside, to those of you who know my son and have become convinced that he loves you best, do not worry. He does. You, yes you, you know who you are. He really does love you the best. Well, after me.
Lesson Learned: From beginning to end, the lesson of forgiveness is one of the most important, yet hardest to learn.