Is there anyone you really just don’t like?
I think this chapter contains the hardest thing that Jesus calls us to do. He calls us to love are enemies and do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us and pray for those who ill treat us.
When I was at school, we were given “stars” for doing good things, and if you did something wrong, you had a star taken away. But losing a star was really bad and involved a public shaming on a Thursday morning in a house assembly. In my seven years at that school, I lost two stars, one deserved, and the other totally unfair. I was told off for talking when I’d just been getting on with my work quietly. I was really upset and it seemed so wrong and unfair, and clearly I still need to get over it many years later on. I really didn’t like the teacher who gave it to me.
It’s just a small example of someone I hated for a short while because they had singled me out and punished me. But there are so many other examples of times when people behave atrociously to one another – you only have to watch the news to see stories of murder and war and other horrendous things.
What would it change if we were to pray for those who do those terrible things? What might it look like to pray for ISIS and others we are so tempted to hate? It’s not that we don’t hate their actions and the horrible things they’ve done but that doesn’t mean we can’t pray for them as people and that they might change their ways.
It’s worth pointing out that forgiving people doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation. If someone is abusive or destructive, we’re not called to go back for more – that’s not what turning the other cheek is about. They need help, and that help doesn’t come from letting them continue to abuse. Forgiveness is about letting go of the burdens of hate that we’re carrying and allowing a new story to be created.
Lord God, thank you that you have forgiven us for the things we’ve done wrong. Help us not to be people that hate others but people that pray and forgive. Amen.
Spend some time today praying for the persecuted church around the world. Look at Open Doors for more info.