Sometime we get to parts of the Bible that we just don't like. Parts that we read over quickly 'cause we really don't want to actually do what it says 'cause it's just hard and we'd rather rot in sin than be uncomfortable and obey (I'm looking at you book of James!). I am absolutely of the opinion that if we stopped each time the Bible told us to do something and actually did it before going further that
1. our lives would be changed powerfully
2. the gospel would be unleashed on the world
3. we'd never get past the one thing we were trying to be obedient in because obedience is not a one time "check it off your list" type of thing.
Recently the Spirit has impressed upon me one of those horrid little commands. Enter "love and pray for your enemies" (Matthew 5:44)
Let's start with the basics. What is an enemy? The Bible characterizes an enemy as someone hateful or hostile. Good ole google says an enemy is "a person actively opposed or hostile to someone."
I don't think everyone has an enemy (other than Satan. I'm talking people enemies). I think we all have people that annoy us or that constantly disagree with us or live life different or don't think well of us or whatever. But an enemy, ah, that is a different breed of person.
I have an enemy. Do they oppose me? Yes. Hostile? Yep. Hateful? Oh yeah. This person told me that they "didn't even consider me a human". Classy. They have told lies and spread lies about me. Yelled at me, cursed at me. Taken things from me. Yep, they fit the enemy description.
So the Lord grabbed a hold of my little selfish heart and told me to pray for this person.
To which my little Christian self told Jesus that I'd rather clean the floor of a tuberculosis clinic with my tongue.
Enter a battle between me and God that God won (currently I am 0-789,429 in winning against God in a wrestling match).
So I started praying for this person. At first the prayers went a little like this:
"Lord I pray for x even though I don't want to."
"Lord, please don't let x die via an intestinal parasite today."
"Jesus, I hope x's car doesn't explode on the highway."
I really, really, struggled with praying for this person. I didn't want to. I didn't know what to pray for. How do you pray good things for a person who most recently told you that they "didn't even consider you a human"?
Ah, the Spirit is powerful.
Because soon I started not only praying for general things but also praying that God would bless this person. Give him health and blessing. Grant him favor at work. Fill him with wisdom and kindness. Bless his family.
I'll be honest and say I still don't enjoy praying for this person. And I do it because it is commanded of me in Scripture and not because I want to. But it's so much easier to forgive a person and to not let their hurtful words sting you when you are praying not only for them, but praying blessings over them. It honestly is one of the most freeing experiences I think we can have as Christians. It opens up avenues to forgiveness and grace and love. It serves as a protective blanket that separates us from that person and their callousness. Prayer is effective. In more ways than one. How wise of God to command us to pray for those that hate us because he knows our flesh wouldn't naturally choose to do it.
Do you have an enemy? Pray blessings over them. Be amazed at how they upset you less than they used to, and how the words they have spoken are diminished in power. It's a powerful tool.