Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Earlier in this same sermon, Jesus said that the normal approach to handling conflict was ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ (See Matthew 5:38) In other words, if someone attacks us, we should attack them back. Yet according to Jesus, this approach is neither godly nor beneficial. How then should we handle our conflict with others?
Yesterday we saw that we should use kindness rather than harshness. “A soft 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 spitefully use you and persecute you…” How can prayer help us?
Prayer will do several things. First of all, IT WILL HELP REVEAL TO US 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, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to 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, then we can trust Him to deal with each of us in a righteous way.
Thirdly, prayer helps us to DESIRE THEIR SALVATION RATHER THAN THEIR ANNIHILATION. 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. However, when we begin to mention their names before God’s throne of grace, we begin to see that what our enemies really need is salvation. While hanging on the cross, Jesus prayed for His accusers. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Someone has said that the only way to rid ourselves of our enemies is to turn them into friends.
God bless you, Brethren.
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.