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!”
~ Matthew 5:43-44 (NLT)
We have all experienced hurt in our lives at the hands of others. As Christians, we are called not only to forgive those who harm us, but to go beyond that to love and pray for them. Whew! Forgiveness is hard, but the loving our enemies thing, well, sometimes that seems like a monumental impossibility!
One of the greatest lessons I ever learned about loving those who hurt us, came in the late ‘90s while I was going through my divorce. Imagine that…learning about love through a divorce! Clearly God works all things for good! Romans 8:28 (NLT)
As is the case with most divorces, it wasn’t an easy time for anyone. While it was grueling for me, I can only imagine that it must have been just as difficult for my parents to witness their daughter and 3-year old grandson experiencing such turmoil. My mom and dad supported me, but yet, they never “took sides.” Being the compassionate people they were; I wouldn’t have expected them to handle it any other way.
After healing from my own pain, and moving on in my life, I realized that not one day had gone by that my parents had not prayed for my ex-husband, for his recovery from addiction and for his well-being. As a parent myself, I find that incredible.
Although I would like to believe that I am capable of that level of love, I cannot honestly say that I would be able to act with such compassion if someone hurt my child to that degree. (By the way, it’s all good now 🙂 See Beauty From the Ashes) Yet, that is exactly what God calls us to do, love our “enemies” and pray for those who persecute us. That’s a tall order to fill.
Sometimes the people who hurt us are in our inner circle, and other times they are on the periphery of our lives. I have been deeply challenged in my life to forgive and love a few people like this, those I don’t know personally but who have profoundly impacted my life. I’ve struggled with this for many years, and quite honestly, it can be exhausting. I have often looked to my parents’ example, yet, being totally forthright, there are days that I still struggle with it.
I have found that, often, it is so much easier to forgive friends and family than it is to forgive, let alone love, the “enemy” who is on the outside of our inner circle. The Bible does not differentiate between loving the “enemies” that we know personally and those who are on the fringes of our life. God’s Word is pretty clear, love your enemies. Period. End of story.
Loving our enemies is not a suggestion…it is a radical command, one that goes against human nature and society’s rules. I have learned throughout my life that God did not give this command to benefit the “enemy,” the one we are told to forgive and love. He gave this command because He loves us and knows that anger and resentment harden the heart of the one experiencing it, not the one it is directed toward.
Valentine’s Day is a time set aside to celebrate the love we share with those closest to us. I think it’s also a great opportunity to offer forgiveness to our “enemies” and choose to love them. I invite you to join me this Valentine’s Day in praying for just one person who has hurt you.
It’s not easy, I know, but what Jesus did for you and for me was anything but easy. (Romans 5:8 NLT) He offered us forgiveness and love even though we didn’t deserve it because love is not about whether or not the recipient is worthy. Love is a gift…one I am grateful to receive and ready to give this Valentine’s Day.