Christian Checklist: Love Your Enemies

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matt. 5:44

Do you ever find that when you read the Bible you see verses like that and put them in your head as a mental checklist? A reminder that next time I come across an enemy or get persecuted I need to love (check) and pray for them (check). Check them off, and then feel good about your obedience.

I work one day a week as a nurse at a clinic. I’ve been a nurse for 10 years and have been through many different situations and struggles. From the drunk man withdrawing from alcohol and becoming verbal to a seemingly sweet old lady with confusion that decided to try to bite me. I’ve had my share of difficult patients, coworkers, doctors, etc. I can’t say that I’ve had any enemies or anyone that has persecuted me. I’ve lost friends when I became a Christian. I’ve been made fun of. But enemies or persecution, no. I had to look up the word enemy and the definition is many things, but one is hostile. Someone that is hostile toward you. I met an enemy this week.

I was asked to take a phone call at work and long story short, the man was very hostile toward me. I was called a word that refers to female dogs, I was told to “shut the….” I’ll leave the rest to imagination. But I was stunned. I was tearful. I have never had someone be so hostile toward me. The drunk man I referred to before was obviously verbal due to the toxin he put in his body, and the cute confused woman became cannibalistic to me due to dementia so those situations I easily rolled off my back. But this man was not drunk and was not confused. He was angry. I was so offended that I broke down and started to cry. I mean, not small tears rolling down my cheek, but one of those ugly cries. I was near sobbing. You don’t know me very well, but I don’t cry very often. I’m one of those good German-descendant folks that can stand like a statue. I’m not an emotional person. Women that cry over certain things usually make me chuckle internally. So for me to break down in front of a group of people is highly rare. Probably freaked some of my coworkers out. When my coworkers spoke with me I tried to give grace to the gentleman. I came up with possible scenarios to explain why he was so hostile. The rest of the day was horrible. I couldn’t get the words out of my head. I came home and got into a funk. A state of depression/sadness/apathy. Then the Bible verse came to my head. Time to check off my list. Love my enemy, chec… no way. Pray for him…absolutely not. I couldn’t. With every ounce of my will I tried to do that verse. I didn’t want to do it. Someone like that doesn’t deserve love or prayer.

Someone like me didn’t deserve it either when Jesus died on the cross in my place. There is was. The gospel. The Holy Spirit worked through me and I prayed. I prayed for the man to come to know Jesus and be saved. I prayed the same for his family. God showed me that when Jesus spoke those words, it wasn’t a to-do checklist. We can love our children, we can love our friends, but we cannot love enemies. The Holy Spirit can.

This is difficult to teach children. It goes against our natural instincts to treat others kindly if they’ve treated us unkindly. When someone is hostile to us it is so easy to become hostile to them. The way to teach this to kids is by using the Bible, then by your example, letting God work through you especially when they see us fail. We admit our wrong, seek forgiveness, and pray that God can take over. My oldest son saw this a couple of days ago when my face couldn’t hide my discouragement. My husband said that we should pray for mommy because someone was really mean to her and then we will pray for the man.

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4 responses

  1. :’-( Sorry about your tough day… great lesson though.

    1. Thank you! Great lessons can be painful ones, but if God is chipping away me to let more of Him show through then it is all worth it. I just hope he doesn’t use a sledgehammer next time. :S

  2. Awww. So sorry to hear that. This is one of the hardest things for me to do. Currently we are being persecuted by a family who has wronged us so terribly and unjustly that I often cannot find even a mustard seed of forgiveness for them. Their sole goal – stated to numerous witnesses – is to “destroy” our family. And they have tried. With every bit of guile and deceit within them. I try to forgive them, pity them, but many days I don’t. I just turn my back and focus on one of the myriad tasks before me. Thank you for the reminder and call to pray for them. Obviously they desperately need the Lord in their lives. How can they find Him if no one is praying for their souls?

    1. I’m so sorry for you. How horrible. You have a very real example in your life of an enemy. What I love about the Bible is God never separates His commands from Himself. He didn’t give us a list of commands to follow and then leave us to fend for ourselves. It feels like that sometimes, but it is a lie. He gave us His Spirit to live in us so that we are able to do what He says, but not in our own ability, but our dying to self and letting Him work through us. I’ve prayed many times “God, I don’t want to pray about this, so help me to pray.” When someone so actively wants to do us harm it is not in our human ability to forgive or to love them. You can’t do it. But God can through you. I think of Paul in the New Testament of how he so badly persecuted the Christians that when he was converted, they didn’t trust him. In Acts 8 it says “Paul approved of his execution.” Paul approved of this first Christian martyr’s death. Acts 9 it says “But Saul (Paul) still breathing threats and murder against the disciples…” But then Paul met Jesus. Acts 9:3-4 a light from heaven flashed and Jesus said “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I think that is powerful for us. Jesus had ascended to heaven so how is Paul persecuting Him? Paul was persecuting the men who were following Christ and had Him living within them. Then Paul met Jesus and was filled with the Spirit and became the writer of 13 books of the NT. Our enemies will meet Jesus one day. Whether it be in this life or after their last breath, but unfortunately Jesus calls us to be the light, the salt, His witnesses. I say unfortunately because I think too many people in my life see me, when they should see Jesus. I am so sorry for what you are going through. You said it though that how desperately they need the Lord, but we do too. I pray that God works all this evil for good and His glory. I pray that the Holy Spirit would control your heart so that forgiveness and love pour out and not hatred. I pray that daily for you and I both that Jesus would be so obvious in our lives that we know they are persecuting Him and not us, and that we remember what Jesus does with people that persecute Him, sometimes he blinds them and then opens their eyes to the cross.

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