Choose Love Instead
Yael Eckstein | April 10, 2022
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
but I am a man of prayer. — Psalm 109:4
In honor of my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.
In Psalm 109, King David explained that even though he loved his enemies, they hated him. And he had many enemies in his lifetime. Even so, instead of hating them back, David chose to love them anyway.
Our natural tendency is to like people who like us and be kind to those who are kind to us. In contrast, we are equally as likely to dislike those who dislike us and hurt those who hurt us first. It’s unusual to find someone who can repay hurt with kindness like King David and choose love instead of hate. How can we overcome our normal human tendency to dislike those who hurt us?
David answers this question in the second half of the verse: “but I am a man of prayer.” But you may ask, what’s prayer got to do with it?
Choose Love Instead
When we pray, we recognize that everything in our lives comes directly from God: the good, the bad — everything. We thank God for the good things in our lives, and we might request that He change a thing or two. In every word we utter, we recognize that there is only one force that controls the events in our lives: God.
So what does this have to do with an ungrateful friend or a hurtful relative?
When we recognize that everything that happens to us is ordered from God for our own good, we no longer place the blame fully on the people who hurt us. We recognize that our experiences, even the hurtful ones, are necessary for our spiritual growth.
Does this make the hurtful person innocent? No. Just because an unpleasant situation was ordered for us, doesn’t mean that the person who delivered it had to volunteer for the job!
But it does place enough distance between us and the hurtful person to be able to see past their actions and into their souls. They are messengers from God delivering to us exactly what we need at that moment. Whatever happens as a result of the enemies in our lives was bound to happen to us one way or another. This clarity allows us to let go of our need to hate back or repay the hurt. It allows us to choose love instead.
If you are like the rest of us, there are probably people in your life who have hurt you at one time or another. There are probably also people who you don’t know — even in other countries — who say and do things that are hateful toward you. But remember — everything is as it should be and they, too, are part of God’s plan. Lose the hate and choose love instead.
Don’t put your enemies in their place; instead place them in your prayers.