Week Four - Day Three
Matthew 5:43-48 - “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Luke 23:33-34 - And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, Moses wrote the laws that governed the Israelites’ relationship with each other (ch. 19). In that same chapter he wrote about loving “your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18). That seems hard enough for us to do, but Jesus’ life, teaching, and death redefined even those long-held beliefs about love. He commands us to love and pray not only for our friends and families, but for our enemies as well. The word “enemy” can also be translated “hater.” It is someone who opposes the way of life, beliefs, or proposed truth of another. Thus, someone who is against God’s idea of truth is his enemy. Someone who is opposed to the Christian worldview would also fall into this category. The agapaō love that is taught in Matthew 5 seeks the welfare of all, including those who act hatefully towards us.
Jesus not only calls us to this higher standard of love, but he demonstrates it perfectly when nailed upon the cross. In Luke 23, while suffering, bleeding and dying, Jesus prays to his Father for his enemies, “Father forgive them…” Most would assume him to have said, “Father send fire from heaven and consume them.” Instead, he petitions God, on their behalf, to cancel the debt of their sin - crucifying the Son of God. Jesus died to purchase the forgiveness of sin, that we might believe and be forgiven as well.
We, who owe everything to Jesus, should be compelled to follow his example. Praying for our enemies transforms our hearts to align with Jesus’. It allows God to breathe his power, grace, and redemption into a depraved situation and miraculously work resurrection life.
• What is your response when you find out that people oppose Jesus as King?
• Follow Christ’s example and pray this week for your enemies. Record the outcomes of your prayers in your journal. Share them with someone from your family or Discipleship Group.