Matthew 5:43 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
Earlier in this same sermon, Jesus said that the common approach to handling conflict was ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ In other words, if someone attacks us, we should attack them back. Yet according to Christ, this approach is neither godly nor beneficial. How then should we manage our conflicts with others?
Yesterday we saw that we should use kindness rather than harshness. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Today we see that we should also manage our conflicts through prayer. “…pray for those who persecute you…” Jesus said. How can prayer help us?
Prayer will do several things. First of all, it will help expose how we might be wrong in the matter. We may begin praying with the spirit of revenge; yet in only a matter of minutes we may be repenting of our own sin. It’s hard to talk to God about the faults of others and not see our own.
Secondly, prayer helps to satisfy our need for justice. Paul tells us, “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Romans 12:19) If we truly believe that God is holy and just, we can trust that He will deal with everyone in a righteous way.
Thirdly, prayer helps us to see not only the bad in our enemies, but also their good. Jesus attached ‘love’ and ‘blessing’ to our prayers for our enemies. Outside of prayer, it may seem strange and even impossible to love those who are attacking us. But when we begin to mention their name before God’s throne of grace, His perspective begins to come to light and we are able to see that the real need is more spiritual than physical.
The only way to rid ourselves of our enemies is to turn them into friends. The only way to turn an enemy into a friend is to pray both for ourselves and them.