The admonition by Jesus to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me is hard. Let’s face it. It is easier to conceive of when I think of someone being rude to me in passing. Or maybe when someone that I don’t really know that well says something that feels like a “curse”.
If, however, I pause to really think about what or who an “enemy” is, or one who persecutes, this is most likely someone with whom I have an on-going relationship of some sort. And that makes loving and praying a whole other ball game! I can’t truly say someone is an enemy if I don’t really know them. And persecution doesn’t usually happen in passing. How, then, do I approach the idea of loving an enemy and praying for one who persecutes me, especially when it’s really hard and it doesn’t stop immediately.
God’s Got Me
Romans 11:36 gives one of the most straight-forward declarations of God’s omnipotence in scripture: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” Then, moving through Romans 12, based on that declaration, Paul begins to flesh out what our lives as believers should look like. Coming to the end of chapter 12 he exhorts:
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).
Whatever situation I am facing with an enemy or persecutor, I can rest in the fact that all things are in the hands of my God. That I am in the hands of my God. I am able to give blessings for curses and to pray for those who hate me because God is my avenger. If I become distracted by my own sense of vengeance or justice, then I am in danger of being overcome by evil. But when I present my body as a living sacrifice to God and “give thought to do what is honorable” I will be overcoming evil with good.
I Will Be Rewarded
According to scripture, purposefully loving my enemies and praying for those who persecute me will result in reward.
Matthew 5:11 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven“
1 Peter 3:9 “that you may obtain a blessing.“
Colossians 3:24 “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.“
And rewards here in this life:
Matthew 5:45 “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Loving when it is hard will make us more like our Father.
James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.“ The trial of persecution is a test of our faith, which produces steadfastness!
There is a book that was recommended a few years back for teens to read entitled Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. The purpose of the book was to show “what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential.” The topic resonates with me, not just for teens, but for all believers. How often do we indeed limit our potential by succumbing to cultural lies? One cultural lie that we easily buy into is that we have to watch our backs. That we’ve got to retaliate against anyone who harms us, or make sure justice is served. The concept of loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us is most definitely counter-cultural. When we consider the steadfastness, the growth, the maturity, the peace we find in doing the “hard thing” of trusting God and walking according to His ways, I am convinced we will find every time that His way was worth the struggle. Let us love, even when it’s hard. Let us pray, even when our hearts hurt. God’s got us, and He will reward us in ways that we definitely don’t want to miss!
Live Free. Live Loved.