“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44 (HCSB)
Years ago I did a series of word studies from key verses in the New Testament. This particular verse from the book of Matthew is one that stands out as the definition of the ultimate difference between being a Christ-follower and a follower of all other religions.
When you look up just two words in this passage (enemies and persecute) in the dictionary you see the picture clearly. Webster’s dictionary defines these two words as follows:
Enemy – “one that is antagonistic to another; especially: one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.”
Persecute – “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically: to cause to suffer because of belief” AND “to annoy with persistent or urgent approaches (as attacks, pleas, or importunities): pester.”
What Jesus is asking us to do is completely contrary to everything we encounter in the world. Wherever we see hatred and revenge condoned, we also see Christ challenging us to love and bless instead. How is that possible? Only with the strength Jesus promises to give us. I believe that this is the most difficult test of our love for Christ in that we love those HE loves.
Look again at the definition of persecute. It says, “to annoy with persistent or urgent approaches.” Are there people in your life who constantly annoy you? We are called to pray for them. Our prayers may be the very thing that the Lord uses to change their lives for all eternity. But again, we can only do this in the power of Christ.
Today, ask God to bring to mind those people He would have you love and pray for in spite of their actions or words toward you. Then ask Him for His power to do it.