“But I tell you: Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you”
Jesus instruction for us to love our enemies is a great challenge. Our normal reaction is to do anything but that. However, His words and life leave us in no doubt.
There are three very good reasons for us to hear what Christ teaches us. Firstly, we were once ourselves “God’s enemies” and He reached out to us in forgiveness and love, so that we could be reconciled to Him and enjoy the blessings of His eternal love. Secondly, God loves the people who might fall into the category of enemy to us and would want us to love them for His sake and out of our love for Him – even if we are offended by their actions. And thirdly, for as long as we do not forgive the anger and pain live like an open sore within us, eating away at our life and peace and relationship with the Lord. Forgiveness can be a great healing for us as well and sets us free from the influence of the perpetrators.
There will be many who have been terribly hurt or harmed through the violent or careless actions of others. For them forgiving and loving their enemies may be a longer and more difficult road to walk. The most important thing is then to openly acknowledge our emotions and reactions to the Lord. Ask for His healing and strength within to enable us to begin responding more fully to His command. As we do so our own inner healing will begin to be liberated. On this journey of forgiveness it will help if, every time our emotions rebel at the memory, we say deliberately and even out loud “In Jesus Name I forgive ….”
Never think for a moment that in this God is implying that our pain does not matter. It matters to Him very much but He does not want it to cripple and destroy our lives and relationship with Him. When we forgive we are placing the matter back in God’s hands for Him to deal with – which He will.
The best response that we can all make towards our enemies is, as Jesus taught, to pray for them. It is what He did – even from the cross. To pray that God will bless them with love, and healing and truth. Then we need to pray for ourselves, that we will decide to forgive them and, with God’s help, not stoke the fires of hurt and anger within us. We also need the love and healing of our Father – and can ask for it.
Don’t hold on to hurt. Pray it out. Speak to a counsellor if necessary.
Father You have forgiven me so much, and never stopped loving me. Please help me to be more prepared to forgive and to love others – for the sake of Jesus who died for us all. Amen.