Do Not Fear: Pray for Those Who Persecute You
“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? – Matthew 5:43-47
We have seen clearly this week how we are to see and understand hurtful words that may be brought against us as believers. First, we do not place our trust in the words of others because it is God’s Word alone that sustains us. Secondly, as we bear witness to Christ, we know that we are blessed even in the face of insults. Thirdly, we must always be ready to proclaim Jesus as the reason for our hope when we are questioned. As we continue to explore how we are to respond in situations where we are faced with opposition through the words of man, we look again at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 5 addresses an important part to how we face adversity. As we are given assurance from God during those times, and while we also proclaim Christ as our Hope, our hearts are changed toward those who mock us. We are not told to hate those who are our enemies. Instead, we are to love them and pray for those who speak against us.
When we look at Christ for an example of this (as we always should when examining the Christian life), we see that there are many people throughout His life that mocked and ridiculed Him, even as he was crucified on the cross. Despite this, He did not respond by hating them or cursing them. The sacrifice of His life did not exclude all those who had mocked Him. He still loved them, even with his very life.
This is an extremely tall order. As this passage tells us, it is easy to love those who love us. Most people in this world love those who love them. Any of us can recall the gut reaction we have when someone mocks us or verbally attacks us. We want to immediately throw hurtful words right back at them. This radical act of loving even those who hate us and speak ill of us is what sets us apart from the rest of the world as followers of the risen Christ. Yet, this nearly impossible task becomes significantly easier when we recognize that we are to love these people with the love of Christ, who dwells in us. We do not call on the strength of our own love or grace. Because Christ has already loved those who have hated him, and Christ lives in us, we are able to do the same through our union with Him.
Action Steps: Read Luke 6:27-31. What would it look like, in your life, to do good to those who hate you? Take some time in prayer to praise God for His unending and unconditional love. If there was anyone you know who came to mind while you were reading this, pray for them. Ask God that your heart would be made more like His so that you may have the strength to love even those who mock, insult, or slander you.