Love your enemies… he tells us… love your enemies.
There’s a saying in my house that is pretty common. And by common, I mean that I’m the one who says it all the time… no one else does. Everyone rolls their eyes when they hear me say it and now you can too because that saying is: “Life is lived within the shades of gray.”
Life is lived within the shades of gray.
What this means is that sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of something or other and more often than not, it’s in the middle of polar opposites. In between conflicting ideas or points of view, in between people or groups of people. But inside of this tension, or within these shades of gray, is where life happens. So, we should get used to it, even though it can be uncomfortable. And even though our instinct is to try to move to one side or the other as quickly as we possibly can, there are times when we need to stay… are called to remain for a time right there in the middle.
Have you even been stuck in the middle?
This happens in life and this happens with faith too.
For example, Jesus is described to us as the Good Shepherd, as one who will never, ever stop looking for the lost sheep… no matter what. But then again, when his apostles were being sent out to roam from village to village to bring forth the good news of salvation, Jesus told them that if they were ever rejected, then they should just wipe the dust of that town off their feet and quickly move on to the next. I think you could make an argument that these two sentiments are somewhat opposed to each other. And that there have to been some shades of gray between them.
Likewise, we understand that we should not judge others, rather leaving that to God… but also through the spiritual works of mercy that we should point out the wayward ways of others so they can avoid sin. There are shades of gray in there.
And we want our bishops to be authoritative, clear and confident… and humble, open to other points of view and meek at the verysame time. There are shades of gray in there.
We can sometimes experience conflicts deep within ourselves because when we are wronged by someone, hurt by someone, victimized perhaps harshly by someone… it is our very nature to feel anger and resentment towards them. Perhaps we hold a grudge. And we might even want revenge. Something deep within us may feel that way. But then there goes Jesus… telling us not to simply tolerate or to forgive our enemies, but to love them. To actually love them.
We could feel so compelled to heed Jesus’ words, to forgive and to love, that we may suppress our feelings, feel guilty about having them, and bury them deep down inside. I don’t believe that this is what Jesus means by loving our enemies. He is not saying to suppress and deny our own feelings.
As Nelson Mandela once said: “True reconciliation does not consist of merely forgetting the past.” We need to remember and honor the past… and move forward at the same time. It’s a shades of gray thing.
Jesus, both human and divine, understands shades of gray.
Jesus, master of the universe, born to poor parents and laid in a manger with barnyard animals as a helpless infant, understands shades of gray.
Jesus, who commissioned his apostles who he knew to be flawed and imperfect and sent to create an enduring, authoritative church that would someday be judged as flawed and imperfect, understands shades of gray.
If you are struggling to forgive someone who wronged you, bring it to Jesus. Acknowledge the conflict and bring it to him. The Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Adoration Chapel are very good places to start.
Life is lived within shades of gray. And more often than not, when we’re stuck in the middle, in that tension and conflict… and inside those shades of gray… that’s where we’ll find Jesus too.