“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love you neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love you enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:43-44). Honestly, which one of us wants to do that? Last year in Texas, a young man was killed in his apartment by a policewoman. That young man’s brother was so pure of heart, so committed to His savior that he did the unthinkable for many people – he forgave her.
That is not all that common, I can assure you. Most people will gladly sit there and consider them an enemy. Their hatred for that person will be overwhelming, and they would revel in a guilty verdict, furious if the perpetrator does not receive the punishment they think fits the crime. Hate is easy; love is quite the opposite. We are surrounded by the former and receive all sorts of sympathy and accolades when we direct our fury at the object of our hatred. We often sympathize with those who hate their enemies, even verbalizing that we would feel the same way if we were in their shoes. Jesus does not want us to indulge ourselves in that type of behavior.
If we are indeed sons of our Father in heaven, we will treat them the way He would want us to. Now, let me just say that I am not saying that forgiveness should be thrown about with gay abandon. Often we need to go through a process before we eventually reach the point where we can pray for them, let alone forgive them. Also, let me ask you a question now. “Are you even expected to forgive someone who has not expressed any sorry or remorse for the crime they have committed? In Matt. 5:46, Jesus asks the following, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
As Christians, we are called to a different standard. We are expected to act in ways contrary to what our flesh wants us to – and that can be incredibly hard. Who wants to pray for the person who is bullying you at school? Who wants to pray for the person who is abusing you daily or the two-faced person who gossips about you? But we should, and for good reasons. You know the old saying, “Doing good is its own reward” well, loving our enemies and praying for them also comes with a huge reward. Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 6:32-33, 35, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those, who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same…But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High...”
While we may not receive direct rewards here on earth, we can be assured that our good deeds did not go unnoticed by our Father in heaven. I suspect God smiles when we can rise above our earthly selves and put on our Spiritual selves in order to follow God’s commands. After all, we are not the first to pray for those who hate us. “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.” If Jesus could do that after suffering beatings, mockery, and abuse, we too should have the courage to do the same. It doesn’t mean you have to be friends or ever speak to them again; it just means that you will pray for their souls to come to the knowledge of the glory of Christ and the salvation his death on the cross afforded them.