KEY SCRIPTURE Matthew 5:44-45
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven:
There are numerous reasons for loving our enemies. But the PRIMARY reason is that the term ENEMY is TEMPORARY. Understanding this key point helps us process Matthew 5:44-45, and the part we play in the Lord's love toward our enemies. This does not mean we stop defending our homes or families, or our country from internal or external threats.
Enemies are personal and national, and we find both in the Bible. We have all experienced personal enemies, while wars have shown us the national type. Often, the conflict is so deep and savage that we think we will never be anything other than enemies.
So how does God expect us to pray for someone who has robbed or beaten us senseless or caused the death or maiming of family members? Knowing these acts of mercy and forgiveness oppose everything within us, He asks us to perform them.
WWII saw Japan bombing Darwin. Yet today, we are at peace. Australia and Japan have many sister cities, and the conflict is gone. We are no longer enemies.
Likewise, Germany was once a world enemy but now exports more cars internationally than any other nation. No longer enemies.
The Apostle Paul was once Pharisee Saul, the Christian killer. He converted and became a member of the family of God. It took believers a while to trust the new Paul but discovered he was only an enemy until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.
The jailor who watched over Paul and Silas was an enemy. But due to their praises, an earthquake and some honour, Salvation came to that jailor and all his house. In just a few hours, he transformed from being an enemy to a member of the family of God. (Acts 16). Neither Paul nor Silas hated the jailor. But would have we?
After WWII, concentration camp survivor Corrie Ten Boom met her mortal enemy while speaking in Munich. He was one of the Nazi camp guards partly responsible for her sister's death. Since the war, he'd become a Christian. He'd sought God's forgiveness, received it, and sought Corries. He was no longer an enemy of God or Christians.
The Ninevites were cold-hearted and brutal. The only people who thought they weren't were themselves. God sent Jonah to warn them. Why didn't God simply kill them and dispense with their wickedness? He could see their hearts. Jonah 3:5 educates us in the workings of the living God. "So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them."
Who'd have believed the Ninevites would repent? Jonah didn't. On that short prophetic journey of a couple of months, he found out how much hatred and revenge he had in his heart for certain people.
We have a common and eternal enemy in Satan. And we have human enemies of the Kingdom who will never repent. But we mortals do not know who they are. It is God's job to work out who are permanent and temporary. Our job is to surrender to His commandments. As difficult as it is at times, God calls us to heave favour on our enemies that we may be His children. God allows sun and rain on the just and unjust. (Matthew 5:45)
Romans 12:20 says, "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."
Coals of fire may sound odd. But not when you think of a sacrificial altar or slow-fire BBQ. Both turn a lump of useless raw meat into a sweet-smelling savour, something favourable to God and us. It may fire up repentance.
Then again, others get scorched and flee from God's flames and hate us more.
Similar to Jonah's emotions toward the Ninevites, some people pray for their enemies solely to heap hot coals on their heads, hoping for God's vengeance. Not us. It is not up to us to know who is from which group. Our goodwill may turn people toward God. Yet, if we reject Jesus' wishes to pour favour we act no better than the unsaved, and our 'enemies' may be further turned from God.
Furthermore, when the Lord commands our love is to be without dissimulation (Romans 12:9), He expects the love for our enemies to be transparent and without guile.
Let's strengthen ourselves and appreciate that our pure love can help draw a temporary enemy to the Lord.
Dear Lord, thank you for showing me the mechanics of praying for enemies. It's often difficult to understand why I would bother. But that is the poor state of my heart and lack of understanding. Please help me to be pure in heart as I add enemies to my prayer list. Also, show me how to act purely in kindness towards those who do me wrong. You know how I struggle with that.
Photo by Kevin Schmid