“You have heard it 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 sons of your Father in heaven.”–Matthew 5:43-45a
It’s been nearly two weeks since I have written. I spent a week with my parents at their home in the country, enjoying a respite from the “real world”. I enjoyed nature, tranquility, no real schedule, down-time to do my art, and time with my family. It was truly a retreat on many levels. And now I am back.
As I’ve slid into the schedule, commitments, projects, and challenges of being back at my house, I am missing the tranquility of a week ago. I have been troubled like much of America about the recent events in Virginia and the protests and hatred it has ignited around other parts of the country. I sit, wondering what to write, as our country’s leadership takes us further into a cycle of anger, hatred, and dismay. Last week the tensions escalated in North Korea and now the escalation is closer to home. I wonder, “When will this stop”?
As I have prayed these last days, a verse that keeps coming back to me are the words of Jesus where He says to “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…” As I read Facebook rants and see angry emojis and look at the news, and think about where our country seems to be headed, I ponder these words. I wonder what would happen if we actually did what the words said. I wonder what would happen.
A few years ago I was at odds with another person at my church. We had a strained relationship due to many factors, which lasted many months. It was the kind of thing where just seeing her car in the parking lot made my stomach lurch, knowing I’d see her… As we waded through strife and misunderstanding, I felt like we were enemies. And nothing I did seemed to fix it. So I began to pray for her, something that felt impossible to do. I prayed for weeks and months. And in the end, we had reconciliation and conversation, and prayer. It was truly a grace moment. …So often we pray and pray to change the situation and the “other person”, but in the end, it was ME that needed changing.
Anger, resentment, and hatred drive us away from one another. Our hearts grow judgmental, cold, and ugly. But God can bring us around, step by step, back towards one another. As we watch the events around our world and country unfold, I contend that change starts with our very hearts themselves. Do you have a person you are at odds with right now? Someone you would call “enemy”? Do the impossible thing—start to pray for them. Prayer breaks down barriers. Prayer is powerful and can change hearts. Take a step forward, get out of the rut of anger, resentment, even hatred, and pray. Pray for your heart to be changed. And then wait to see how God will work!
Prayer–“Gracious Lord, there are times anger and resentment build up in my heart and teeter on the edge of hatred. Come into my life, cleanse my heart, and lead me on a pure path of good. Give me the strength to pray for my enemies. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”