July 6, 2021
By Gina Padilla
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”Matthew 5:44 NIV
It was a radical concept in Jesus’ day and it’s still a radical concept now. Although we’ve heard this before, how many of us actively do this? When we think of that person who grates on our last nerve, do we look at them with love or do we shake our head and condescendingly say, “Bless their heart?”
Soon after Jesus taught this to his disciples, they were being persecuted and by persecuted I don’t mean being called bad names on Twitter or unfriended on Facebook. They were being killed for their belief in Jesus Christ. One of the greatest persecutors of the early church was Saul, a Pharisee.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.Act 9:1-2 NIV
I am sure that many early Christians were terrified and prayed for some deliverance of their fate from Saul. I’m sure they prayed for protection, but perhaps there were some Christians who prayed for Saul’s lost soul.
The story of Saul’s incredible encounter with Jesus, subsequent conversion and transformation from Saul the Destroyer, to Paul, disciple of Christ who wrote more than half of the New Testament can be found in the book of Acts, Chapter Nine. The Apostle Paul was a servant of Christ and the gospel was advanced incredibly through him and his disciples. However, when he was Saul, terrorizing Christians, I don’t know if anyone saw what he could be except Jesus. If someone like Saul can be transformed from the chief persecutor to a chief disciple, who is out of God’s reach?
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 6:12 NIV
We have an active role to play in the spiritual war being waged for our souls. Our job is to pray. Understand that Christ has won this battle with what He did on the cross, but the enemy is still going to try to wreak havoc in this realm. The enemy knows he’s lost and he wants to take as many of God’s precious children with him as he can.
The way we help in this spiritual war is to pray. All of God’s children matter to God, not just the ones that we like or agree with. We need to get our egos out of the way and begin looking at people like God does.
I think praying for people who have hurt us is one of the hardest things to do. It goes against all wisdom, logic and reason of this world, but in God’s realm, it makes sense. We forget that the person who hurt us, who we dislike, or who hurt someone we love, matters to God. Regardless of what we feel for this person, God loves them and commands us to love and forgive.
“Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
The same is true of our leaders in government. Do we pray for the health and safety of all leaders or just the ones we agree with? Do we pray for them to have divine wisdom and discernment and to turn their heart toward God and acknowledge Him in their ways? Or do we just pray that the ones we don’t like get defeated in the next election?
When we look at the world and see division, death and destruction, let us also see God’s lost children who only know this world and don’t know the glorious hope in Jesus Christ. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we made a conscious effort to genuinely love our enemies and pray for our persecutors?
Matthew 5:44 NIV
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Photo Credit: Amaury Gutierrez