Love Your Enemies
"But I [Jesus] say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Even the Gentiles, do they not do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:44-48
Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Jesus wants us to fight the right war, and that is the spiritual one. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Eph 6:12)
Our battle isn't against each other, it is far deeper than that. Of course the spiritual war manifests itself physically in the agendas we see, and how people treat people, but make no mistake, this is about souls, and eternity.
Jesus telling us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us is not Him trying to be cute or nice. Rather, it is Jesus bringing home the point that those who belong to Him live differently because we know the truth. There is no greater example of this than Jesus' death on the cross. Can you imagine, just for a second, if those of us who are Jesus' followers would love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us instead of responding in our flesh? This has the power to be transformative, not only drawing us closer to God, but being a bold witness that may bring even our enemies and persecutors to know Him...
To love like Jesus, it requires us to lay down our lives, keep our emotions in check, and remember the true war in which we are frontline soldiers. In chapter 12 of Romans, Paul states this; "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never repay evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:14-21)
God, through Paul, tells us that if our enemy is hungry we should feed him, and if he is thirsty, we should give him a drink. Paul states that in doing so, we will heap burning coals on our enemies head. In our flesh, we are all like "Yes! Burning coals!" but I contend this is so much deeper of a statement. When I hear the phrase "burning coals" my mind goes to Isaiah chapter 6. This is where the angel grabbed a burning coal from the alter, put it to Isaiah's lips and said his sins were forgiven. The coals had a purifying effect and represented grace. Remember, Isaiah thought it was over for him, he thought God was going to destroy him. Isaiah admitted his guilt and God demonstrated grace, He restored him. Then, Isaiah falls all over himself to get about God's business when he famously stated "here I am, send me." When we love our enemies, when we give grace rather than vengeance, this has the power to baffle our enemies. When we don't allow evil to overcome us but rather, we overcome evil with good, we speak volumes of who Christ is and what He has done in our lives. I am not saying that all our enemies will come to know Jesus, but, we do have a better opportunity for them to encounter Him if we point them to Him. When we recognize and know that our war isn't with flesh and blood but rather it is spiritual, this changes how we respond to those who seek our harm.
Is it our heart that those who are our enemies come to know Jesus? Are we praying for those who persecute us so that they may taste and see that the Lord is good? This isn't easy but it is important. I praise God that He has given us His Spirit and that His grace is available. May we continue to learn and grow as we are being molded to Christ likeness.
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