This one is hard.
You wish Jesus hadn’t said it. But it’s right there in Matthew…
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:43–44
Love your enemies!
Forgive is hard enough, but love. Love seems unimaginable. Love feels impossible.
Someone came to mind didn’t they? The person or persons who betrayed you, who intentionally made a decision that changed your life, who went out of their way to make your life miserable. Or the person who still gets under your skin every . . . single . . . day.
Love them? Did Jesus really mean love?
Yes! But it’s important to remember we tend to think of love as a warm fuzzy feeling. Jesus wasn’t talking feelings here, He was telling people to DO love. Agape love.
Agape love is God’s kind of love. It is love in action regardless of how we feel. Agape love cares about the welfare of others. It intentionally wants what is best and does it.
When you want to get even. You don’t.
When you want to tell your friends. You don’t.
When you want to get ugly angry and tell them off. You don’t.
I don’t now about you, but those things can rise up fast in me when I’m hurt. I need help. And the only things that help me love . . . NO, the only things that make it possible for me to love my enemies are:
1. The help of the Holy Spirit.
Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians – Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31–32
I don’t know about you, but I can’t do that on my own. Bitterness and anger come much more naturally.
Paul also said in a letter he wrote to the Galatians – But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22–23
What I can’t do on my own, I can do with the help of the Holy Spirit. I can love and be patient and kind. I can be faithful, gentle, and show self-control. AND I can have joy and peace in the process.
So, I pray for help and then I…
2. Pray for those who persecute you.
The Jews in the first century understood persecution. They lived under Roman rule. Persecution and prejudice were just part of life.
And Jesus told them to love and pray for their enemies.
Pray for those who make your life miserable. Pray for those who are bigoted. The ones who hurt you. Who are unfair. Who are mean. Who gossip about you. Who ________.
And as if love and prayer aren’t hard enough, Luke added these words to Jesus instructions, “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Luke 6:28–31
Bless them. Give to them. Do to them as you would like them to do to you.
It’s just that simple. Seriously, I can’t do it.
So, I go back to #1, and I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. I pray. And I pray again.
I turn to God’s Word in faith. I remember verses like:
Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter. Proverbs 20:22
Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. Psalm 55:22
Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
When it’s hard because it seems like the people who hurt you are doing great and you’re not . . . start again at #1. Because if you want to feel better, if you want peace and contentment, if you want joy. You have to let it go.
Take your eyes off your enemy and turn your focus to the One who will never betray or hurt you and ask for His help.
That the Holy Spirit will help your heart heal . . . then pray for your enemy.
If you’re like me, when you’re hurt and angry you have no idea what you should pray for but you’re pretty sure asking God to get even with them is probably not what Jesus meant.
John Piper wrote an excellent article titled, Pray for Those Who Abuse You.
The Lord’s Prayer — Even for Your Enemies
The place to start in praying for our enemies is the prayer that the Lord taught us to pray. Whatever else you pray for your enemies, pray for them like this: (Read more here)
One final thought . . . something that helps me.
Everyone, even your enemy, is someone dearly loved by God.
God will give you everything you need to love . . . even when you need to love your enemy.
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