Praying for My Enemies

Matt. 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Love your enemy… Pray for those who persecute you… Be perfect… …as your heavenly father is perfect. Not easy words. It’s a small comfort to consider that Jesus knew they would be and I do have help there, but it’s so hard to know what that looks like.

Perhaps it’s easier if I consider the love God has for those I call my enemies. Yet even here, there is a challenge. It’s hard to imagine One I love loving someone I hate. If I take the time to consider someone who treated me poorly and then try to imagine God being head-over-heels in love with that person, there is a part of my soul that recoils at this image. It is uncomfortable. I squirm and try to redirect my thoughts, but this does not change the truth of what that image presents to me. God is, in truth, fully in love with that other person and I must accept this truth.

And I am required to love that person and pray for his soul. I am required to pray for each of them (for there are more than one) and love them just as Christ has loved me.

It is a high bar to meet. I cannot succeed alone. The loving seems relatively easy, for they are distant and no longer much connected with my life other than by memory. Prayer… that is the hard one, for distance does not absolve me. Of course, I would be happy to pray for God’s judgment upon them, but this is not what I am called to. For salvation? Must I share my God with them?

I find myself surprised by how long I paused after writing that. It’s ludicrous to think I have any choice in this matter. God is not mine in such a way that I can decide whether to share Him or not. Yet the resistance is still there.

I find it’s easiest to ignore it altogether. It’s sufficiently challenging that I tend to just think, “Well, that’s obviously beyond me so I’ll just skip it for now and hope God makes it easier for me later.” This is a pretty standard response for me. While there’s a small element of truth in that approach, the majority of it is fatalism (or mere laziness).

Having said all this, and in such a public forum, I believe I now have a responsibility to do better, or at least seek the One who can help me do so. There is a particular area, or person rather, that I would like to name. It seems more practical to be more particular. Plus, this is someone with whom we can all relate. My apologies for the anxiety this may cause some people, but the person I have in mind is Donald Trump.

I don’t like saying this, but I think it’s true: we Christians seem to love to hate Trump. For the sake of clarity, I will mention that I did not vote for (or against) Trump. Had I done either, it would not change my assessment of the present situation: I think I can honestly say that the vast majority of comments I have heard or Facebook posts I have read with reference to him have been rather unbecoming of the people who have said or written them.

This, however, is merely my assessment and I’m not about to point fingers anywhere other than at myself. Whatever those comments were, my hope is that they were honest or backed by some sort of significant conviction. For me, the crime… no, let me call it what it is, the sin is worse. What comments I have made in the negative may have some connection with reality, but I must own that they tended to be made so that I would fit in or otherwise “jive” with those around me. This was wrong and I must own that.

Regardless of what I or others may think of him and his current administration, I must pray for him. In praying for him, I cannot do a Fiddler on the Roof prayer and pray that God “bless and keep him… far away from me”. I must pray for his soul, for he may yet be saved. Yes, he may yet be saved. If I hope and pray for anything, it must be this, for this is the one thing I know that God also desires.

Matt 18:10 “See that you do not disdain one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 12 What do you think? If someone owns a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go look for the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that one of these little ones be lost.

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