“I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5: 44
The Jewish people were familiar with the Old Testament command to “love your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:18) To many, this meant loving their fellow Jews – not always easy, but they realized the importance. Then Jesus came along and took this command one step farther: “Don’t just love your neighbors, I want you to love your enemies (My Paraphrase).”
To love our enemies means loving those who don’t love us, don’t look like us, don’t speak like us, don’t even like us. This refers to people inside and outside our circle of family or friends, our fellow believers, and even our fellow citizens. Jesus’ command includes loving those who are not for us, those who desire ill will towards us, and even those who make our lives miserable. We are to love anyone and everyone, but especially our enemies.
At first glance, loving our enemies can seem impossible. After all, each of us has a story that begins with: “If only you knew what this person was like or what he or she did – you wouldn’t be asking me to love them.” But Jesus was very clear. So how do we begin to love our enemies? It starts with prayer.
When we pray for a person who has hurt us, God has a way of softening our heart. We begin to look at that person through God’s eyes – perhaps even remembering how God looked at us in love and mercy while we were HIS enemy and were rejecting HIM through our sin.
So, does “praying for our enemies” make what that person did ok? Absolutely not. Does it mean that you are going to like this person? In most cases no. But it does mean that God can give you a supernatural power to love them and to show them love, no matter how they respond to us. And that kind of love is powerful. No, it’s beyond powerful. It’s supernatural because this type of love comes from God.