By Michelle C. Danko
It is easy to love those who are kind to you, and it requires no sacrifice on our parts. It is natural to want to help out, encourage, and lift up those who you have a good rapport with. What about those who persecute you, go seemingly out of their way to put obstacles in front of you, lie about you, “stab you in the back”, are mean to you, or just generally don’t seem to like you whatsoever? It’s not quite so easy to love the unlovable, and frankly most of us just don’t want to. We tend to avoid them, and want God to move them out of our lives a.s.a.p. Yet perhaps they are in our lives for a reason: so that we can show them the love of Christ and minister to them.
Scripture tells us to love and pray for those who persecute you/your enemies, but why is this important? For most of us, it doesn’t make sense to love people who seem to deliberately want to sabotage us. Most of us, in fact, are more apt to quote scripture which reads, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.” (Deuteronomy 32:35 NLT). No one ever considers Matthew 5:44.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
The two verses really go hand in hand. We are not to repay evil with evil and take matters into our own hands. If we truly believe that God sees all, then we must leave it in His hands and believe that all evil deeds will receive some kind of punishment. It should be noted that the scripture goes both ways, though. For all actions that a believer does maliciously against another will also be judged. God knows your heart and your actions as well. Before you tell God to “Go get ‘em!”, you may want to examine yourself as well.
Getting back to loving your enemies…
We are to love our enemies. If it is written in scripture, we cannot ignore it. We cannot cling to one scripture at the expense of the truth. We are to allow God to deal with the person who seeks to harm us, but we are not to show them the same type of behavior/actions that they show us. Then we become just like them: a bully, mean, nasty, or ugly. How are our actions any better? They don’t show people the love of Christ. Even Jesus loved those who hated Him, and never repaid evil with evil. Instead He prayed for them, asked for forgiveness on their behalf, and loved on them in a time when their actions were not “worthy”, in our sense, of such kindness. But who are we to judge?
This is the point: who are we to judge? We aren’t to judge others, yet we do anyway. We have an innate sense of wanting to correct what we deem to be injustice and forever want what is good and true to reign. It is a godly thing to desire that the truth be revealed, to want justice to reign, and injustice to be punished. However, outside of the law, it is not up to us to judge. We cannot possibly know what is in someone else’s heart, what their intentions are, what they are going through, or the motivating factors involved in their actions. We can only speculate, and our speculation is subject to our own subjective analysis. We base our judgments on past experiences, our own “opinions”, our values, and our understanding. However we fail to realize that our understanding is limited. God knows the truth about the person, and the situation, and He will deal with them accordingly. It may be punishment, or it may be correction, but God will make it right. We need to rest in that, and let our anger go because it benefits no one.
It is interesting to note that we always want justice for someone who has wronged us and to the maximum penalty possible, yet we want grace extended to ourselves. We want others to suffer as we suffered (and often more), yet we want God’s gentle mercy to rain down on our transgressions. It is because we know our motives, but often our actions are just as hurtful as others- just to put it in perspective. We can’t have it both ways and play by two sets of rules. God is no respecter of persons, what He does for one He will do for another. This also applies to correction as well. If He can correct your neighbor on your behalf, He can just as easily correct you on your neighbor’s behalf. Depending on your walk and relationship with Christ, don’t be surprised at the outcome. One of you may need to know better, and the other should have known better. It depends on which side of the fence you are on. If you expect God to grant you grace, you need to extend the same grace and mercy to others.
We need to show people the love of Christ to effect change in their lives even if they are not the nicest person in the world. It is hard, and a sacrifice, but whoever said that doing the right (godly) thing was always going to be easy? What if you knew the real reason behind the actions and they were nothing like you thought they were? What if that person really needed to be ministered to, or were really hurting- deep down? Would that change your perspective? Sure it would! Yet sometimes we don’t understand why something is happening, or why a certain person is persecuting us. Sometimes, they don’t either.
But I can’t do this! I can’t/don’t know how to love someone like that!
Is Jesus in you? Did Jesus love on the unlovable? Then you can too because Christ is in you, and you were made in the likeness and image of Him. You just may have to “grow” into it, and this is where God steps in and helps. Ask Him to teach you how to love your enemies, and how to pray for others. You may be surprised at what He reveals to you. You may end up changing lives and bringing others to Christ. You just never know. Ask Him why this person is harming you, and what He wants you to do about it. Does He want you to pray for them, minister to them, love on them? He will guide your steps. Watch change unfold, and at the very least, witness your enemies be confused. In their minds, they will not understand how or why you are not retaliating. It won’t make sense to them. Most of them will come to a point (especially if you are praying over them) where they will ask you why, and then you can share the gospel, or will simply move on because you aren’t reacting. Even, at worst, if they still try to persecute you, they will still fail because God will protect you. You can’t lose!
Next week I will write about the importance behind loving your enemies and why God commands us to. How do we effect change when we love our enemies, what can take place inside of them, and how to know what God wants us to do in these situations.