Love Who?! How?!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” - Matthew 5:43-45

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. That is a radical action to ask of one’s followers. It is something that is intensely counter cultural here in America and would have been even more so in First Century Israel when Jesus said this. I taught from this passage this past Sunday. If you missed it, you could check it out by click in HERE. Today we are going to look at three steps you can take to begin practically applying this idea in your life. It is one thing to hear we should love our enemies and it is an entirely different thing to actually do it. So, let’s talk about what it looks like to love our enemies.

1. Identify Your Enemies

This might seem obvious. But if we don’t know who we perceive as our enemy, then how can we love and pray for them? In First Century Israel, it would have been very obvious who the enemy was, Rome. They came in, conquered and oppressed the Jewish people and would ultimately destroy the Temple. Very clearly, they were the enemy. This isn’t always so obvious for us in 21st Century America. More recently in America, this type of language has been applied in a political context. If we were to take a larger world view, this term could include those who are persecuting our brothers and sisters around the world, those who are undermining the Church here in America, or those who have undermined the Church from within. Regardless of who our enemies are, it is difficult for us to love them and pray for them if we don’t know who they are. As you we are doing this, we can ask ourselves this question, which of our relationships need to experience reconciliation? Ultimately, loving our enemies is about reconciliation, so where in our lives do we need reconciliation?

2. Seek the Lord

We know our enemies. Now we must seek the Lord. Seek out our Father and ask him to change our heart. Ask him to soften our heart and to fill it with his infinite love. Ask him to guide us toward forgiving our enemies. Ask him to guide us toward compassion for our enemies. Ask him to teach us to love our enemies. Once we begin to seek the Lord and ask for these things, we must trust that he will do that changing work in our hearts and move us toward a loving heart for our enemies.

3. Love & Pray for Our Enemies

The last step is to do what Christ commands, love our enemies and pray for those who are persecuting us. Once again, come before the Lord and pray for them to be reconciled with him. Seek out how he would have us play a role in that reconciliation. This role may be simply praying for them or it may be a more active role. Regardless, earnestly seek his will for how to pour his love out on your enemy.
I will readily admit that this can be an intensely difficult task to undertake. Often times, our enemies are our enemies for good reason. They have harmed us or those we love. But there is no exclusion in this command for those who have hurt us. Our enemies’ eternity hinges on our willingness to pray for them and seek to show them the love of our God who wants to reconcile with them. It can be hard to get started with a prayer such as this, so I am going to leave you with two prayers. The first is A Prayer for Our Enemies from The Book of Common Prayer. The second is A Prayer for Our Enemies from Open and Unafraid: A Set of Psalms Prayer Cards.

The Book of Common Prayer
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Open and Unafraid
Lord Jesus, you who ask us to do the impossible – to bless our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and to love those who seek us harm – we pray that you would do the impossible in us: change our hearts. Help us to love our enemies as you love them. Help us to remember who our true enemy is: Satan, death, and the spiritual forces of evil. Perform also a miracle in our enemies by your Spirit. In your strong name we pray. Amen.

Josh Cervone