THE WOODPECKER

Listen, all of you. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you; implore God’s blessing on those who hurt you. [Luke 6:27-27 (TLB)]

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERI watched as the woodpecker drilled away at the stucco. The plaster patches on several other columns indicated this was not the first time he’d done so and it probably wouldn’t be the last. With his tiny beak, that determined little bird was doing as much damage as a heavy sledge hammer. I’m sure the building’s owner, annoyed and angry at the woodpecker’s damage, would like to shoot it. Fortunately for the bird, that’s illegal so it’s likely he will continue to peck to his heart’s content.

I thought of that woodpecker after talking with a friend recently. Knowing she’d experienced a stressful time over the weekend, I thought she might need to vent a little so I texted my readiness to listen if she needed to talk. Taking me up on the offer of a sympathetic ear, I could hear the exasperation in her voice. Yes, we’re supposed to reflect God’s grace to everyone but for how long when we get nothing but disdain in return? We’re supposed to love others but what if they are unloving and unlovable? We should be channels of God’s grace but what if we’re channeling that grace into what seems to be a bottomless pit? We’re supposed to be giving but when do we get a chance to receive? If other people can be selfish and rude, why can’t we? When can we stop turning the other cheek? When do we get a break?

That frustration is just Satan chipping away at us a little bit at a time. Like the woodpecker, he doggedly pokes and pesters us. Given enough time, he hopes to break through our defenses. Left to our own devices, he eventually will find a weak spot and push through the wall of self-control. Thinking back to that woodpecker and the many plaster patches on the stucco, I wondered why sheet metal hadn’t been used to deter the pesky pecker. Instead of a piece of metal, we have God’s armor—the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, faith, salvation, righteousness, truth and the power of prayer—to fortify us against Satan’s attacks. Grace—unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it—is what we got from God and what He expects us to pass on to others. Admittedly, there are times we’re sorely tempted to retaliate rather than love but, with God’s power, we can pass on His grace to everyone (not just the nice deserving ones). We don’t get to take a break from being Christian in word, deed or even thought.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your loving grace. Strengthen us when we’re tempted to forget that love is patient, kind, not easily provoked and never rude. Stop us when, instead of turning a cheek, we want to lash out and strike back. Free our hearts of bitterness and anger and fill them with unconditional love and forgiveness. Help us pray as fervently for our enemies as we do for our friends.

Grace is free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving. [B.B. Warfield]

Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good. [Romans 12: 21 (TLB)]

But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. [Matthew 5:44-48 (TLB)]

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