43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.
We have to be careful about patting ourselves on the back for the things that we’re expected to do anyway. At least, that’s how I would understand what Jesus is saying here.
Loving our families and friends, you know, all the people who love us…that’s expected. It’s not always easy, for sure, but it’s expected. We don’t call that Christianity. We just call that being human.
If we want to be like God, Jesus says, we need to move beyond reciprocal loves toward unconditional love – for everyone. This is what defines how a Christian loves. It’s something more.
Christian prayer, likewise, isn’t just a litany of the needs of the people we love. It has to involve prayer for our enemies and forgiveness for those who hurt us. A Christianity that’s exclusively focused on “our” people – however we define them – has ceased to look like Jesus. It’s taken the easy way out. And what reward would you expect to have from that?
Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from his sermon “Loving Your Enemies,” preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, 1957
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
What are some of the challenges, even in loving those who love you? Think of one of those challenges and pray over it today.
How do you (or how might you) intentionally incorporate prayers for your enemies, for forgiveness, etc. into your daily prayer routine?