Years ago, a pastor’s wife shared a story at Bible study about a woman who went to a pastor for marital counseling. The following conversation is similar to what she told.
Woman: “I don’t love my husband anymore.”
Pastor: “But, do you love him like a wife loves her husband?”
Woman: “No, I don’t love him.”
Pastor: “Do you love him as a friend?”
Woman: “I don’t love him anymore.”
Pastor: “Then, do you love him as an enemy?”
The progression of questions brings home the point that we are called to love. Our husbands. Our family. Our neighbors. Our enemies.
Yikes! What? Love an enemy? Why should we do that?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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…” Matt. 5:43-44
Jesus spoke to the people, and to us, telling us to not hate, but to love. To bless and do good to those who are nasty in our lives. How many of us have someone who has said hurtful things, or used us, or persecuted us for our beliefs? Probably most of us. The natural reaction is to strike back. To be just as mean. To nasty right back.
But, Jesus gives us different instructions. Love. Bless. Do good.
Why? Why does He ask us to do something so difficult?
“…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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:45-48
We are called to be like Christ, like God. And, God embodies the definition of love. He demonstrates caring and compassion. Yes, He sees the heart and we don’t, but we can trust Him if He instructs us to love.
How do we do this? Prayer is a great start. When we sincerely pray for someone, it’s impossible to hate them or to want to do them harm. Pray for God’s love to help see that person in a different light. We don’t have to understand the enemy or to agree with them to pray for them. Or to extend grace and mercy to them. Just as God extends grace and mercy to us.
If a neighbor makes us angry or hurts us, bake some cookies to give to them. If a co-worker says unfair things about us, leave a card on their desk thanking them for their work. If someone cuts us off on the freeway, yells at us, or makes a rude gesture, pray for that person.
We are surrounded by strife, but God has given us a way to combat the discord.
Pray. Bless. Do good.
“Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” Prov. 10:12
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