Matthew 5: 43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
As we live on this planet it is impossible to not have those who dislike us or even can’t stand us. Having enemies or even those who have hatred for us is a part of living in this world. Where I agree it is hard to have those who are against us, it’s also a challenge to grow in heart, in life, and in spirit.
One of my favorite sayings is “Those who pray for their enemies have no enemies.” Jesus made His statement clear that it is easy to love our friends and those who love us, but where is the reward in that? Our true reward is in becoming more like our Lord and that means praying for, and loving, our enemies. I agree, it’s hard. This does not mean we have to agree with them. It does not mean we have to hang around them, because often their hearts have not changed, nor will they ever. What praying for, and loving our enemies does, is it puts us in a place of love that lays itself down for others. Jesus also taught us that there is no greater love than to lay down ones life. Of course, He put this in the context of being “friends”.
Praying for our enemies helps to change OUR hearts for the better. Loving those who do not love us back is the greatest love we could possibly have and also the greatest way to keep hatred from entering into our hearts. Can you agree that maybe we have enough hatred in this life? Granted our enemies might have too much pride to even draw near us or befriend us, but our goal is not impressing others. Our goal is becoming closer to being like our Lord and Savior. We want to be formed and fashioned into the image of our heavenly Father who sees us all as His creation. We might not all be His chosen, but we are all His creation.
To have hatred is to kill or murder from the heart. Think about that statement for a second. All open actions begin with our thoughts and what is in our hearts. If this is true then we are capable of doing things we might have never done had we not harbored hatred inside of us. Praying for our enemies changes this. Now, hear me in this; this does not mean our prayer is “God do something horrible to that person”. It means, “God please bless this person, keep them safe, help them to love more, come into their lives, be their Savior, reveal Yourself to them, change them from the inside out, and make them more like YOU!”
A dear man I was honored to be connected with, a father in the faith, prayed over peoples photos and had many that he posted in front of him while he prayed. I loved this practice and I came to adopt the very same thing. This helps us to see and visualize the person as a human being and in the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can genuinely come to love them as we pray for them to be blessed. In this way we are more like our heavenly Lord and also we spiritually create ways to build bridges instead of burn them.
Don’t we need more bridge builders in this life? What victory do we have in keeping our enemies wrapped in the heart of hatred? We only have victory when we allow love to win out. The Bible tells us that true love always wins. When we pray for our enemies and love our enemies we always win and so do they. They might not know it, or even recognize it, but they will win. Praying for those who hate us turns hate to love and shows we have grown into a greater maturity. Our prayers might not win humanitarian of the year award in someone else’s eyes, but God sees them as sacred.
If you want to do good in this world, start in your prayer closet and post Scriptures, pictures, prayers, and loving statements. How can you help but shine in the presence of your heavenly Father when you show Him your love and maturity?
Loving you from here,
Pastor Jenine Marie Howry