You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:43–45)
In his commentary on this passage in Matthew, Adam Clarke says the principle in the three verses above is the “most sublime piece of morality ever given to man. . . . Who can obey it?” he asks. “None but he who has the mind of Christ. . . . Nothing but supreme eternal love can enable man to practice a precept so unsupportable to corrupt nature.” The way to treat an enemy is to love him, even when he or she is unkind in word or deed. Extending this even further, Jesus not only commands us to love our enemies, but to pray for them!
Prayer is God’s love in action. Once we begin to care for the person for whom we are praying, we can extend acts of love and kindness to that person as opposed to avoiding them or treating them as they have treated us or others. As we show our love and care to them, their hearts may be transformed in such a dramatic way that everything about their lives changes. They may even become ready to hear the gospel if they have previously rejected it or have never considered the good news of Jesus. But, it all begins with prayer. When someone angers or frustrates you, begin to pray for them. Teach this to your children and grandchildren as well.
This command of Jesus has a promise attached. By behaving in a loving manner toward someone who has mistreated you, and by praying for the person, you will be considered a true child of your Father who is in heaven, for He is this way. “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?” (Matthew 5:45–46).
I don’t know a better way to stop a fight than to stop fighting and start giving and loving. How many marriages would be saved if the partners could just crucify self and do what Jesus commands?
While visiting the Holy Land some years ago, I was struck by the strong emphasis on peacemaking in the Bethlehem Bible College. This school is led by one of the strongest Palestinian church leaders in the area. I recently learned the reason for his strong stand for peace in the midst of great conflict. In 1948, his father was killed by an Israeli sniper right in front of his home in East Jerusalem. His mother, left alone to raise seven children, urged them not to seek revenge but to obey Jesus’ command to love their enemies. This has been lived out by this family to this day. The college leader’s son, Sami Awad, is now the director of Holy Land Trust, a ministry that teaches nonviolence. His nephew, also named Sami Awad, spent a week in the museums of the Holocaust in Dachau, trying to understand what the Jews went through. Because of their obedience to the commands of Jesus, these two young men are highly respected by leaders on both sides of the Middle East conflict.
If you love those who love you, what reward have you? But when you love your enemies, and do good to them “your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35).
Lord, it’s true. This command is contrary to my natural human nature. Please so fill me with the divine nature that I can truly treat my enemies with the kind of love that gives. I ask You according to Your Word to pour Your love into my life. Show me those who might think of themselves as my enemy and show me how to love them with Your love.
–Adapted from Encountering Jesus: Praying the Commands of Christ into Your Life by Norval Hadley. This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Extra Commands to Pray. A FREE PDF DOWNLOAD that goes along with the book, Encountering Jesus: Praying the Commands of Christ into Your Life. It includes content for additional commands that the book does not cover.
Praise the King for his powerful rule in this world, and that no plan of his can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Give thanks that this rule is evidenced around us and in us. Confess any doubts which you may have about God’s kingly power. Commit yourself to being a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing, as your spiritual worship to God (Rom. 12:1). Ask that you would “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (12:11).
Pray that unconditional love will be demonstrated clearly and consistently in your family relationships and friendships. Ask the Lord to give you a fuller appreciation for those whom he has placed in your life.
“Prayer is an end to isolation. It is living our daily life with someone; with him who alone can deliver us from solitude.” —Georges LeFevre
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