This Day In History: 0000-03-23
March 23 – Matthew 5:43-48
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! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gave His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Are there people in your life who seem to do nothing but cause problems for you? People who just rub you the wrong way or seem determined to make life as difficult as possible for you at every turn? People who hurt you over and over again? I’m sure every single one of us has at least one person who immediately came to mind. What each of us wants to do is to make life difficult right back. To give them the cold shoulder or be downright mean to them. To “pay them back,” or give them what we think they deserve. Right? But the Bible says that the children of the King of kings won’t act like that. Instead, His dearly loved daughters and sons will pray for the ones who persecute them, and do their best to love their enemies.
Many years ago I was put into a ministry with someone who rubbed me the wrong way. Everything he did made my skin crawl. Suddenly I not only had to work with him, I had to follow him, since he was in charge of the ministry. I was not happy. But that very Sunday my pastor taught on the power of praying for our enemies. He challenged each of us to pick a brother or sister in Christ who we really didn’t like and to start praying for them. Not just praying that God would fix them, or make them better, or that God would help us to like them more, but to really pray for them. To take the time to learn about what was going on in their lives and to start committing time each day to earnest prayer for that person’s real life struggles. He suggested that we also spend a little time rejoicing in prayer for the person’s victories. I took that challenge and began to pray for this new partner in ministry. Wouldn’t you know, in a matter of weeks God had completely changed my heart. Not only did I no longer hate the man, but I was genuinely on his team from then on. I was rooting for him as I would for my brother, and I was doing everything within my power to support him in ministry. His wife became one of my close friends and when they eventually moved away to pursue another ministry I was heartbroken.
I realize that for most of us the issues we have with our “enemies” are much greater than mine were with that man, but the application of Scripture should be the same. I too have had much more difficult issues with people more intimately involved in my life. But the same God who worked in my heart as I chose to be obedient in prayer will work in our more pressing situations too. Let’s choose obedience! Let’s commit to wholeheartedly pray for our enemies. Let’s strive, not to be like everyone else, but to be perfect just as our father in heaven is perfect!