A few weeks ago, at the conclusion of worship, our pastor challenged us to pray—genuinely pray for our “enemies.” Based on the last paragraph of chapter 5 in Matthew’s gospel, He outlined four things we could do, that would demonstrate love toward our “enemies”;
4 Ways to Love Your Enemies:
1. Verse 45 – Meet their needs. God is gracious and kind to all, so we have an opportunity to be a blessing as well.
2. Verse 46 – Love everyone the same. All people are cherished, loved, and died for. The best “lovers” are the ones that truly understand how much sin they have been forgiven.
3. Verse 47 – Talk to them! Do you ever walk down the hallway and deliberately walk the other way when you see someone? That is a symptom of a conflict that needs to be resolved. Just speak blessing and kindness.
4. Verse 44 – Pray for them! We can only pray for those that hurt us through grace in Christ.
I’ll confess, I haven’t done a very good job of this. I believe I started okay, but it wasn’t long for the toxicity of my “enemies” behavior overcame my desire to speak blessing in their life. Frankly, I’m ashamed of that lack of self-control, but it is what it is.
The conflict with the exercise our pastor laid out is not insignificant. It’s hard for me to move past my own feelings of ill-will into the arena of selfless love and concern for another human being, regardless of how they act. In an elementary way, it’s similar to being cut-off on the highway by a thoughtless and inconsiderate driver. I get my shorts in a bind and become focused on their rudeness and lack of civility and they go merrily about their business oblivious to what’s going on around them or how their behavior effects other people (me specifically). It could ruin my day and not mean a thing to them. (I suspect if they knew it ruined my day, they’d be a bit joyful.)
Just the other day, in the doctor’s office, a person was sitting in the lobby talking on the speaker phone to another person. It’s bad in itself that people are rude enough to carry on private conversations in a public arena, but on the speakerphone—come on! Did I breathe a prayer of blessing for that person? Heck no. I desired a divine lightning strike that would light up his phone! Of course the whole event, which lasted about ten minutes before he left, impacted me greatly because I was trying to focus on reading a book all the time thinking “How rude is that?” When he could have cared less.
As you can tell, I have a lot of work to do when it comes to praying for my “enemies”. The examples, though trivial to some degree, reflect my lack of progress. As they say, “Confession is certainly good for the soul but bad for the reputation.” Again, it is what it is. Having awareness of all of this is in itself a move toward healing and growth. No one said living Christianly would be easy. The fact that it hits me so hard may be evidence that I’m beginning to get the picture.
What I haven’t come to terms with is the “Why?” What is it about my “enemies” behavior that handicaps me from taking the right action? Is it because I think they should know better? Is it because their behavior puts me in a situation that I don’t want to be in?” Is it because I’m miffed that they can get away with poor conduct and I can’t/shouldn’t? Could it be I see in them a reflection of myself and know how wrong and hurtful that kind of behavior can be?
This is where someone much smarter than I needs to step in and ask…”Why is it that their behavior bothers you so much?”
If you haven’t caught it by now, let me say it; Living Christianly is not as easy as many would make it out to be. This idea of turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, praying for those who attempt to impose their will on yours is hard work. Yes, I understand—the kind of behavior Jesus describes is ultimately only possible through the filling and leadership of God’s spirit, but that leads to a whole other topic.