St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) offers us some spiritual wisdom for the Nativity Lenten season. Chrysostom acknowledges it is counter intuitive, but those who hurt and offend us actually benefit us on our journey to the kingdom. How is this possible? If we forgive them and are reconciled to them, Chrysostom says God forgives our sins simultaneously. It is those who offend us who give us opportunity to practice the virtues of love, mercy and forgiveness. Thus, he says, they become our benefactors as they are giving us opportunity to practice the Gospel commandments. The people who offend us give us the chance to behave like God. Chrysostom thinks we ought to be grateful for the opportunities their bad behavior affords us!
“Consequently, I beseech you, let us keep this in mind and no longer bear to hold a grudge against those who have done us an injury or otherwise wronged us in some way, nor be badly disposed towards them; instead, let up consider of how much kindness and confidence for us with the Lord they prove to be instruments, and before all else the fact that reconciliation with those who injure us turns out to be a discharge of our sins. Thus let us show all enthusiasm and effort, and out of consideration of the gain accruing from this let us display as much care of those who injure us as if they were really our benefactors. In other words, if we look at things in the cold light of reason, those kindly disposed towards us and those anxious to serve our every need will not succeed in benefiting us a service of those others, which will render us deserving of favor from above and will lighten the load of our sins. Consider, dearly beloved, how important is this virtuous behavior to judge from the rewards promised by the God of all things to those who practice it.
He said, remember, ‘Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you, pray for those who abuse you,’ since these directions were very demanding and aspiring to the very summit of perfection, he added, ‘so that you may be like your Father in heaven, because he makes his sun rise on good and evil, and sends rain on just and unjust.’ (Matthew 5:44-45) Do you see whom that person resembles – as far as is humanly possible – who not only takes no vengeance on those who harm him, but even shows zeal in praying for them? Accordingly, let us not deprive ourselves through indifference of such gifts and rewards surpassing all description, but rather evince enthusiasm for this kind of virtue by every means and, by disciplining our thinking, respond to God’s command.” (Homilies on Genesis 18-45, pp 180-181)