When it comes to life, it’s often the most challenging things that are most rewarding. Sitting on my couch all day is pretty easy but minimally rewarding. Going on a hiking adventure with a great friend is really physically tough but highly rewarding. This concept seems to carry over into our spiritual lives, and few verses prove it to be true like the one below.
Luke 6:27-28 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.
My man, Jesus, doing what he does better than anyone else in the course of human history and completely upending the status quo. Logic tells me to try to defeat my enemies, to hate them, to want to destroy those who want to destroy me. I can only imagine the confused faces as Jesus taught the exact opposite. Love your enemies? That makes no logical sense. Do good to those who hate you? Ummm, no thanks, I think I’ll do ill to them instead. Bless those who curse you and pray for those who hurt you? That’s the last thing I want to do to someone who hurts me!
The thing I love about Jesus is that he’s always calling us to a higher level. It’s easy to repay pain with pain, and anger with anger, and Jesus is saying to do that which is not so easy.
I want to look at two different aspects of this. The first one is the spiritual aspect of it. I am an absolute, die-hard, yell it at you if I have to, believer in the deep power of this concept. Just about anyone who I minister to on a one on one level that ever talks to me about a difficult person in their life will hear me say at one point or another “pray for them.” Funny enough, most of them don’t appreciate the advice in the moment, but I give it because I know that it works. The truth of it is this, praying for our enemies isn’t even as much about them as it is about us. Unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, they’re all poisons that slowly kill you. Carrying them is like carrying a weight on your shoulders you were never meant to carry, and it will tire you, unbalance you, harm you, slow you down, and eventually halt any spiritual progress you’re making in your life.
Something amazing happens to your heart when you pray for an enemy or foe or someone who isn’t treating you right. Your heart softens. It doesn’t mean you are weak and it certainly doesn’t mean you let abusers continue to abuse you, but it does mean that you don’t let those who would harm you also harm the health of your heart. The ultimate victory you can have over someone who curses you or hates you or tries to hurt you is to pray for them in love. Doing so is the only medicine I’ve ever seen that fully cures unforgiveness, and as anyone who has carried unforgiveness can tell you, it’s a bitter illness indeed.
In case you’re wondering, for me, here’s what a prayer like this looks like. I’m not going to use the person’s name because this isn’t about airing some personal grievance. I just want you all to see how this works for me in prayer.
Father God, right now I just want to pray about this person that has presented a difficulty in my life lately. Lord, I wish I understood the full motivations behind their actions, I hate the idea that I may have done something or inadvertently said something to hurt them or cause them to act out against me. So right now God I just ask that you move within their circumstances. Whatever is going on that has caused them to come against me I just ask that you’ll show up with a mighty wave of love. Where they bring bitterness and divisiveness, Lord I just ask that you bring tranquility and unity. God, as difficult as it is at times, help me to love this person the way I love everyone else. Help me see them as your precious creation, and if at all possible, use me to help them encounter you. I give this situation to you, I give this person to you, and I trust that you are in every moment of this moving forward. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, amen.
Even just the act of typing that prayer out softened my heart toward this person. No joke, it heavily shifted my attitude and I feel lighter now that I’ve released that situation and that person to God. Jesus would never tell us to do something that wasn’t going to bring glory to God and eternal benefits to ourselves, and Jesus is telling you to pray for your enemies. I promise you, if you start to put this into practice you’re going to be amazed at what it does for your life.
So that’s the spiritual aspect of that verse, but I wanted to also take a moment to look at the practical application of the verse. How can I “do good” to those who hate me, beyond praying for them, what does that look like?
For me, it usually means small tasks and big opportunities. Grab an extra donut on the way into work and offer it to this person. Do a simple chore or task that usually falls to that person “just because”. Pay them a sincere compliment. Small gifts of kindness given to someone who may seem “undeserving” of them just helps us understand the heart of Jesus more (since he died and paid the debt of sin for all of us who were undeserving of his sacrifice.) So again, this is one of those things you can do that is going to help you just as much as it helps the other person.
But God has a funny way of going beyond the small tasks. In my experience, when someone is actively positioning themselves against you, there will inevitably be a moment when you see them at a low point. An embarrassing spill of coffee onto their clothes, a mess up at work, a flat tire in the parking lot, something like this. And it’s in this moment when you get to really choose if you want to follow Jesus’ words or not. Because we love to see our enemies fall, and we love to see those who have hurt us get hurt, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying to the flesh as seeing a bully get what’s coming to them. Yet, God gives us these moments to do what I said at the start of today’s blog, to rise to a higher level. To live out God’s love, to show undeserved mercy to someone in our lives, because that’s exactly what God did for us by sending Jesus to this world.
If you want to see the greatest views, you almost always have to travel the greatest distances. Do the difficult things like praying for those who hate you, by doing good to them, and watch God work miracles. Sometimes He’ll turn bitter rivals into trusted allies. Other times He’ll remove those who have taken a stand against you. As tough as it is to accept, sometimes He’ll leave the obstacle in place for a time to strengthen you and grow you. But EVERY time, He works on your heart, helps keep it operating out of love, helps you to better understand how to get it beating in rhythm with His own. And there’s no better thing than that. It’s worth the most difficult of tasks, even giving up our anger and desire for payback.
Alright, that’s it for today. I love all of you, and I really hope you’re being as blessed by this study of Luke as I am. When you slow down and just let the Bible speak you can learn volumes from single passages or even sentences. It really is amazing.
If you’ve got a prayer need or just want to talk, my email is always open to you at firstname.lastname@example.org