“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.’” Matthew 5:43-45a ESV
I had the most incredible conversation with my mom today. She is, perhaps, one of the most godly women I know. Before you think that I’m being bias, allow me to evidence my previous statement. I have never seen someone embody genuine faith the way that she does. She has lived her life as someone who takes God at His Word, and I am moved by her authenticity. As I shared with her a deep struggle that I’m currently facing in my life, she reminded me of a time that our family went through when I was just a child. Due to some terrible decisions that my dad had made, my family was subjected to vicious harassment, vandalism, and threats from a group of people that were out to destroy us. This lasted for nearly two years – daily phone calls, threats, police reports, stolen property and vandalized vehicles…you name it, we dealt with it. Although I was young, I was not immune to the effects of this. I remember being afraid every day, not knowing what we would come home to or who would have broken into our house. It was such a long time ago, and I rarely even think about it anymore, but my mom reminded me of something today that brought me to my knees. As she reflected on all that we went through during those few years, she said, “I remember praying for them every day, that God would change their hearts and have mercy on their souls.” Wow.
In light of my current situation, although significant and causing me great distress, it pales in comparison. We had every reason to hate those people (even though we didn’t know who they were) for hurting our family the way that they did for so long, yet my mom’s heart was bent on praying for them, just as Scripture teaches us to. It was as if I had a “light bulb” moment today, as the tears streamed down my face. My heart hurts over the mistreatment and the injustice that I’ve faced, but I am not responsible for the actions of those that have mistreated me. I’m responsible and accountable for myself. I choose my attitude. I choose my response to their mistreatment of me. There is a reason why God commands us to pray for our enemies and to do good toward those who wrongfully accuse and persecute us. He tells us to do this because it changes our heart and eliminates resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness. We can’t continue to hate the one that we genuinely pray for. God changes us in the process of our obedience to Him in this matter. He’s always after our hearts.
The world’s advice would be to do unto others as they have done unto you, an eye for an eye, you burn me and I’ll burn you. God’s wisdom speaks a strikingly different message. Love your enemy. Pray for your enemy. Invite God into the struggle and watch Him change your heart in the process. I’m not sure if any of you needed to hear this today, but I know that I did, and I pray that God’s truth speaks new life to you today. I pray that these few verses of His Word shout into your struggle, and I pray in faith that our response would be one of obedience…to be found on our knees in prayer, not only for those that love us but for those that are difficult for us to love.
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” Proverbs 25:21-22 ESV