Pray for Your Enemies (22-01-22)
Bible Reading: Matthew 5:43-47
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
We seem to live in a world that thrives on conflict, whether it is related to politics, sexuality, race or religion, and conflict sometimes leads to persecution. Only today I read about Christians being murdered by religious extremists in Kenya. Closer to home, but less serious, I also read about a Christian nurse in Croydon who has won a tribunal against dismissal for wearing a cross at work.
In the grand scheme of things, the conflicts that we face in life are probably quite minor, but still I think we struggle with Jesus’ words here, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’, or, as Jesus says in Luke’s more detailed account, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you’.
Think for a moment about the people or organisations who cause you problems and heartache. How do you respond to these words of Jesus? I wonder if there are ways we might look at these situations that would help us to respond in a more Christ-like way.
Loving the sinner but hating the sin might be one way. Without lessening the seriousness of any form of wrongdoing, looking beyond the deed to the reason for the action may lead to understanding, to forgiveness, to reconciliation and ultimately to love.
A recognition that ‘There but for the grace of God, go I’ could be another way, with the knowledge that life does not offer everyone a level playing field, and that in a different situation we too might act differently.
But praying for those who persecute you and blessing those who curse you must be the best way. Prayers such as ‘Lord, bless their socks off’ hands the problem back to where it belongs, in God’s loving and gracious hands, and gives us the chance to say, with Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.
Father in heaven, you cause the sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and send rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, bless those who make life difficult for me, and lead us all to a place of forgiveness, of grace and of love.
Be like your Father