Whatever your “this” is today, give love a try

This month, the guide I use for daily scripture reading has me in the book of Exodus and this past week, in a lengthy section detailing the laws by which the ancient Israelites ordered their lives. It’s not been the most inspirational of reading, the eye-for-an-eye instructions especially.

“I’m glad such times are behind us,” I mutter while finishing up the passage.

love_magnet_12552-1Then my grandchildren for whom I provide before school care show up at the house. A petty quarrel that started in the car escalates over breakfast and within minutes, it’s all out war.

“I wish I didn’t have a sister,” he yells.

“You’re a bully,” she yells back.

“Shut up.”

“No, you shut up.”

“I thought such times were behind me,” I mutter while attempting to separate the squabbling siblings.

On that same day, I came across a column by David Brook where he takes on the costly game of one-upmanship we humans love to play. Titled “Conflict and Ego,” the essay moves from the relatively benign “insult, trolling, hating, and cruelty” that too often characterizes online discourse to the horrific acts in recent days by the Islamic State or ISIS.

Brooks’ advice for dealing with the awfulness of this time is to “quiet our disgust and quiet our instincts . . . to step out of the game,” to tamp down conflict by controlling our egos. He writes:

In all cases, conflict inflames the ego, distorts, and degrades it. The people we admire break that chain. They quiet the self and step outside the status war. They focus on the larger mission. They reject the puerile logic of honor codes and status rivalries, and enter a more civilized logic, that doesn’t turn us into our enemies.

Which brings me back to the scripture guide with which I begin my day. The editor wisely paired the reading from Exodus 21 with another from Matthew 5 – the former written to the children of Israel and the later addressed to children of the Father. In the transition from Old to New, retribution gives way to redemption and love replaces hate.

And not just for the in-crowd, family, friends, and other folks who already love us. Jesus’ teaching goes well beyond Brooks’ urging that we not turn into our enemies. We are to love and pray for those who harm us, keeping at it until the word “enemy” has no place in our hearts or our actions.

There you have it: A much-needed reminder for such a time as this, whatever your “this” may be today. Replace ego and a penchant for conflict with love and pray and show yourself to others as a child of God.

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