You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
How Do You Love an Enemy?
What does it look like to love your enemy? Isn’t that asking the impossible? Wait, didn’t Jesus die for us while we were still enemies of God (Romans 5:10)? If we look back on our lives before we were saved and understand that we were once at war with God and were His natural enemies, we can look at our enemies in a different light. Sometimes we deserve to have people dislike us, and at others times they are enemies of ours because of Who we represent. Paul knew that there were enemies of the cross; however, he didn’t respond in kind but wept for them, knowing their final eternal destiny if they never repented or trusted in Christ (Philippians 3:19). I have met men and women who may not say it, but they hate God. They treat me in a way that looks like they hate me, too, but really it is Christ whom they hate.
How Do You Pray for Your Persecutor?
When Paul said that we ought to pray for all men and women everywhere, since we know for sure that God desires all men and women to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and know that many of these men and women we are to pray for are those who persecute us, this must necessarily mean them, too. It is one thing to pray for those we love in our family and church, but it is altogether different to pray for those who have it in for you. Even so, Jesus never said who these enemies of ours are. They could actually be inside the church; but in the context of Matthew chapter 5, it is believed that it means those who are outside of the household of faith. In other words, there are no categories of men or women for whom we should not be praying from the reading of Matthew 5:43-44.
Praying in Love
You can’t say you love those who are lost and then refuse to pray for them. There is a man who was very antagonistic toward God, to whom a friend of mine and I spoke about Christ; but we still prayed for him after witnessing to him. The greatest way we can display godly love toward the lost is to pray for those who reject the Gospel because they must have the Spirit of God reveal to them Who Jesus Christ is. We cannot reveal Who Jesus is; it is only the Holy Spirit Who can (Matthew 16:17; Galatians 1:15-16). If we realize that, we can more easily pray for those who are presently blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).
A Closing Prayer
Father God, please help me to know how I ought to be praying for my enemies and those who hate me and persecute me for the message and to realize that it is the message they hate and not the messenger. I know You desire all to be saved and that this should be my desire, too. So I pray that You increase my desire for those who are presently lost. I pray in Jesus’ Holy Name.
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