Matthew 5:43-45 | 1 Peter 3:18a| Proverbs 16:7
But I say, ‘Love your neighbor, and pay for your enemy’s lunch.’
Do you have a difficult person (or two) in your life that you have to deal with? Are you the difficult person for someone else to deal with? Either way, we have some good news: God loves you.
“For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”Matthew 5:45b NLT
Jesus tells us our Heavenly Father provides for everybody–whether they are good or evil, just or unjust. Are you a caring nurturer? God offers his warmth and vitality to you. Are you a heartless bully? You get the same thing.
Does that sound unfair? Only if you can’t admit to being a heartless bully at times. Because, really, if you think about it…everyone does it. Here is something else that seems unfair…
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.1 Peter 3:18a NLT
Even though Jesus himself never sinned, he died for sinners. Now that doesn’t seem fair! But it works out pretty well for you doesn’t it?
Jesus wants us to extend that same unfair treatment to people who cause us problems. In doing so, we show ourselves as set apart from the rest of the world. We show ourselves as children of God.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”Matthew 43-45a NLT
And check out this amazing proverb:
When people’s lives please the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them.Proverbs 16:7 NLT
So please the Lord with your life by loving your enemies and praying for people who give you a hard time.
If, by some chance, you are someone who does not follow Christ, who revels in giving people a hard time…God loves you. Jesus died for you, too. He wants to bring you safely home to your Heavenly Father. Will you accept his unfair offer?
Questions for Group Discussion
- Why is it important to God that you love your enemies? Could it be that he loves them, too? What about the fact that, as a sinner, you were once his enemy?
- Does the fact that Jesus paid a penalty he didn’t earn make you feel any better about praying for people who persecute you? If not, why?
- How does the fact that Jesus’ willingly suffered injustice change the way you think about justice in general? Does it change the way you think about fighting for justice? Is ‘social justice’ the same as regular justice?
Challenge: Knee Exercise
This is where the rubber meets the road. Except this time the rubber is on your knees, and the road is the floor of your prayer closet. Or wherever you pray. Okay, this analogy is falling apart…
Take a quick moment of silence for our fallen analogy, and then take this challenge: PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMIES.
- Write down names (or a list of names) of people who have caused you pain, or who you would otherwise classify as your enemies.
- Make a schedule to pray for them each day for one month. (Do not skip this step–you are not going to want to do this, so leaving it off will assure its omission.) If nothing else, pray that God would bring them to trust in him and end the enmity between you.
- As you pray for each one, make a note of what you prayed.
- If you can safely do so, find a way to see what God does for them throughout the month.
At the end of the month, review your notes. If you want to continue praying for them, do so.