“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'”
Matthew 5:43-44, NIV
Years ago, while serving in Mobile, Alabama, I was called to the county jail at the request of an inmate. The man had been extradited from a nursing home. After more than twenty-five years the legal authorities had found the man accused of setting fire to a black church which resulted in the deaths of three precious little girls. When told of the charges against this man I did not want to see him, much less minister to him. I remember sitting in the waiting area for the accused man to be brought from his cell. My heart was racing as I prayed, “God I do not know what to say to this animal; he deserves to die.”
I no sooner had that thought than I heard the still small voice of God’s Spirit, “And you also deserved to die for your sins but I loved you and gave my life for you. Now you love this man with My love.” I confessed my self-righteous attitude just as the door opened and revealed a frail man in his late seventies. He sat down and said, “a few years ago I gave my life to Christ. This world will never forgive me but I know He has.” I couldn’t agree with him more. The man died before ever going to trial.
Jesus gave us instructions for loving our enemies: He told us to pray. Here are specific requests when praying. For God to forgive your enemy (Luke 23:34 and Acts 7:60). For peace to be restored and salvation in Christ. Or, if they are believers, to surrender to God’s discipline and correction.
Specific prayer for your enemy will spiritually benefit you. Prayer will keep you from becoming bitter, hostile, or reactionary. It is very difficult to hate the person you pray for on a regular basis.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
QUESTION: Can you identify one “enemy” in your life who you will pray for today?