Matthew 5:43-48 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” NASB
I’m sure you have noticed that many of the instructions of Jesus regarding relationships with others are challenging. Our Lord did not bring an “Easy Button” into the equation when He spoke about interpersonal relationships. His Gospel is not one of “Easy Believism” but one that is often almost incomprehensible in its difficult for flawed human beings such as we are. This is one of those examples.
The Jews and most people of that era and many today believe that we should love our neighbor or those like us but hate our enemies or those that differ with or oppose us. Jesus said that instead of adopting that philosophy or rule of life the ‘Rule of Life’ from God was “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Most find that virtually impossible!
We want ‘justice’ or ‘revenge’ and want them to ‘pay!’ Loving them is virtually out of the question and praying for them is almost impossible. Yet, the Lord declared that IF we are to be “sons of our heavenly Father” it must be the Rule of Life for us. He informed those hearing that if they were to be ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’ in God or as God this must be the ‘Rule of Life’ for us.
Consider the matter of Loving our Enemies. How do you do that? It is Impossible unless we ‘forgive’. I cannot hate and love a person at the same time. To love someone, I must ‘value them’ and to ‘value them,’ I must not harbor a grievance or resentment toward them. I must see them as God sees them and realize that God values them as His creation and desires that they should be saved as we.
Therefore, if God made them, and desires them to be forgiven, I must learn to forgive. I must swallow my pride, put to rest my resentment and thirst for retaliation and vengeance, and forgive them! I dare say this will take more than one attempt to accomplish.
I have found that although I weep with tears streaming down my cheeks and broken-hearted crying out “I FORGIVE” something will happen in a few minutes, hours, days, or weeks that rekindle the old feelings. In that moment I realize that I have not Forgotten and must go through the process again. I must continue it until the matter is settled in the heart and I have fully released them from my prison of hatred or hurt. At that point, I no longer allow what they did to be used in any judgment or action toward them. At that point, I can love them with the Love of God has forgiven them and then I can pray for them effectually and honestly.
I do not suggest that you pray for them to continue following the path they have been traveling. You do not pray that they continue that lifestyle and attitude and hurt others. You do not pray that they can continue serving themselves but pray for their souls genuinely desiring them to come to Jesus and receive His mercy and pardon. That would mean that you do not rejoice in their destruction but rejoice in the redemption. This is a battle that I wage almost daily and certainly frequently. It is something that I strive to achieve in my life and know that only as I forgive am I truly free!
I want to please God in my life and relationships and although I do not believe I can earn His favor I do believe that He honors our persistent obedience to His commandments. That opens our hearts to receive more and more of His nature and character into our lives and the more we receive Him we ‘decrease’, and He ‘increases’.
As you go through your day and for the rest of your life make it your objective to be a person who loves their enemies and prays for those who persecute you. Be a Forgiver!
God bless you as you go through your day!
Religious paths are never easy !