Matthew 5:43-48: “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, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This command of Jesus is a difficult one for many of us to follow. As with most of Jesus’ teachings, this runs counter to what society would have us to follow. The world that we live in encourages us to take revenge, to get even, to make the other person “pay” for their deeds against us. After all, it “feels good” when we get even for some perceived wrong, doesn’t it?
Jesus tells us that we are to “pray” for those who treat us badly or talk about us or who simply don’t like us. Through prayer, the believer is able to give over to God the anger or need for revenge that he or she is feeling. And by praying for that person whom you are angry with, God is most certainly able to affect a change in their heart also.
The Old Testament also gives us an example of how the prayer of a true believer can help both the believer and their “enemies.” In the 42nd chapter of Job, Job’s three friends have claimed to know why God had brought such terrible suffering upon Job. The three friends seemed to make themselves more spiritually superior than Job and they essentially gave Job some bad advice.
God tells the three friends, in Job 42:7-10, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.
This Old Testament illustration is what Jesus is teaching when he tells his disciples to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus wants each of us to be able to forgive and not hold on to anger or hurtful words, so that we can fully serve God in the way that He has called us. It’s impossible to move forward with our lives if we harbor grudges or cling to hateful words from our past.
We were discussing the subject of forgiveness in Sunday School this past week and my wife made a comment that makes sense. She said, “I don’t hold onto grudges or stay upset with people because it just takes too much effort, and I don’t have time for that.” Holding onto grudges and not forgetting how others have wronged you does take a lot of time and effort. Could your time be better spent in service to God if you could let go of and forget how others have mistreated you?
Luke 6:37: “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” The words of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke.