‘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? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect‘.
Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)
Read: Matthew 5
Consider: Jesus was once approached by an expert in the Law who asked him how he might inherit eternal life. Jesus in retort asked him what it said in the Law. In response the man quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 to say that we must love God totally (with heart, soul, strength and mind) and love our neighbour as ourselves. The man then asked Jesus the question ‘… who is my neighbour?’ and this led to the telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Looking at the verses quoted above from Matthew 5 we are told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. The question could be asked ‘Who is my enemy?’ Who should we be showing love to and praying for?
Jesus goes on to say that it is easy to love those who love us and to greet the people we associate directly with. His concern is that showing God’s love must go much wider than this. The same must be true when we are told to love our enemies. This cannot just mean those with whom we are in conflict.
In Philippians 3:18 Paul says that: ‘… many live as enemies of the cross of Christ’ and in Romans 5:10 he reminds us that ‘… while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of the Son …’ We need to remember that before we committed our lives to Christ we were in a position of being God’s enemies. This means that we should be praying for those with whom we have direct opposition and conflict, but also those who are in opposition and conflict with God. Not easy! But the Christian life isn’t meant to be easy, it is meant to be challenging. Our enemies must include the strident secularist, the atheist and agnostic. When was the last time you prayed for those who openly defy and ridicule God, who laugh at what you believe and hold dear? When did you last pray for the salvation of God’s enemies, rather than their downfall?
Think on these words and what they might mean in practice for you: ‘… I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …’ (Matthew 5:44) and ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink’ (Romans 12:20).
Pray: Father, help us to pray for those who stand in open opposition to you. Help us to pray not only for those for whom we find prayer easy, but also those who we find difficult to pray for. Give us a clear understanding of how we might practically show your love in our lives. Amen