“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44, 45 KJV)
Why pray for our enemies? What makes this effort so incredibly important rather than simply a means to step back and rethink the situation? Praying for our enemies (notice the plural) is so much more than not striking them down at the first available opportunity. This is even more than switching from a negative action to a positive one. It is a switch from a managed response to a surrendered one. What is our first tendency when we see injustice? To figure out a way to either make it right or to send cross fire! And we do that by bringing the situation into control. Because if there is injustice then something must be out of control, right? And whether it be you, a group of people like you, or the governing authority; it equally must be brought square again. These are management tasks.
Praying for our enemies takes a really intense frustration, in even a really hot moment, and delivers a message of “contain this” or “deal with this” or “right this wrong” to an authority that is bigger than you can ever imagine, stronger than you can conceive, and has a perspective that you are not likely to attain; yet is also beyond your control. You see, no one has a problem with a God that has puppet strings. In fact, it is those very strings we look for when we are looking for justice. And it is the lack of those strings that makes delivering a prayer for action so challenging. Sure, we can see value in taking a step back to vent to God. We can see the value in stepping back for the additional perspective that a little time and a second glance at a situation can offer. We can even see the value in not doing something rash in our anger. But genuinely praying for those dirty rotten scoundrels who need both contained and a healthy dose of justice to a God that we cannot control! That just goes against so many of our grains.
One of our primary perceptions of the role that God plays is the just judge. So, when we perceive injustice we naturally ask, how can this be? Do we not say, if there is no justice then there is no God? We make the straightest line we can between our perceptions of the lack of justice and the “therefore” there must be no God. Yet, it is clear that it is only the fool that really says this in his heart (see Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1). How do we know this is a foolish thing? Look at the second part of each of these verses which identify this behavior as foolish. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1 KJV) “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 53:1 KJV) Do we measure the straightness of God’s stick with our crooked one? From our self centered point of view can we really see beyond our own circumstances? Yet, as previously mentioned, it is not necessarily the perspective that we have a problem with. It is the control we want! Nothing makes you want to take control of a situation more than a perceived injustice. And corrupt people in control only makes a bad situation worse. Let history show just how much worse corrupt people in control can make things. That is when your hand most needs surrender rather than management.
So, the fastest way to a real solution is to recondition our instincts such that when enemies arise (and they will) to seek God in earnest prayer for them rather than to begin to plot our own solution and then bring that solution to God for his sign off. There is nothing easy about this. I would even suggest that it may be more difficult than just dealing with the enemy and having it out then and there. Yet, the explicit instruction of Jesus is very clear. Pray for them! I find that it changes me too.
“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matthew 5:46 KJV)