“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44b
These verses flow very naturally out of what we saw in the previous entry, that because our base instinct is to fight for our honor and put down anyone who harms us, only a trust in God’s ability and desire to defend and protect us can move us to treating others better than they deserve. And it all comes back to seeing that in Jesus, we ourselves always get better than we deserve.
In verse 45, Jesus reminds his audience that God the Father sends good things to everyone, whether they recognize him as the giver or not. His disposition to is bless and provide, even for those who malign and reject him. Think of how that’s true in your case. If you have been a Christian for a long time, remember again how many seasons you’ve been through where you have neglected and forgotten the Lord, and he has never left you; maybe you’ve been through seasons of half-heartedness or fear, but he hasn’t rejected you when you’ve returned. If you have recently come to know Jesus, remember how much you were forgiven when you first turned to him, and how he freely forgives you each day as you continue to grow. Even if you’re still making a decision about him, consider that he doesn’t hem and haw about you, or insult you, but continues to invite you in despite your hesitation.
Grasping his patience and kindness towards us, who don’t treat him as he deserves, helps ground us in acting with patience and kindness towards those who treat us badly. We can grow in our desire to pray that they would receive goodness and forgiveness as we have.
The contrast between the way people work and the way God works is obvious. Sometimes we can feel proud of ourselves for being nice to our friends or those in our social circles; we feel like good people because we’re not selfish 100% of the time and occasionally remember to be kind to our buddies. Jesus, however, calls us to be perfect, just like God is, and this perfection encompasses a kindness and generosity to even those who actively hate us.
This kind of attitude and actions come from a changed and empowered heart. Take time to consider any people in your life you could broadly categorize as an enemy, or against you. Pray that God would open your heart towards these people, and begin to pray that he would bring blessing on them. If you do not yet submit to the Lord, consider what it could mean to give up your anger and receive not only forgiveness, but power to not be wrapped up in your grudges and consumed by who is against you. He offers you the freedom of his protection, acceptance, and love.