Today’s Lenten meditation from The Word Among Us focuses on one of the most difficult tasks God requires of us:
Love your enemies… . Be perfect. (Matthew 5:44, 48)
Wow! That’s a tall order, don’t you think? But don’t worry. Jesus isn’t expecting you to do this on your own. He knows that loving everyone as God does—especially loving people who disagree with you—is beyond any of us. He knows that our best hope comes as we spend time in his presence, giving him permission to fill our hearts with his own mercy, compassion, patience, and love.
Here’s something you may not think of right away: if you want to love your enemies, then pray for yourself. Not for things like debt relief or a winning lottery ticket. Rather, ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and patience; kindness and gentleness; power and self-control—and, oh yes, for more of God’s love.
We all need the Spirit’s help to respond as the Father does. Make time for him, and ask him to teach you about the situations and circumstances you face. Your challenges are unique to who you are. They are not your spouse’s, your parents’, your neighbor’s, or anyone else’s. And God has specific answers just for you.
After you have prayed for yourself, go ahead and pray for your enemies. (You don’t have to seek out “enemies,” by the way. There are plenty of people around us who qualify for the title.) It’s always a good idea to come in touch with God’s love for you before you try to spread that love to someone else! You may find yourself interceding with greater kindness, understanding, or patience. You may sense God moving you to some act of kindness toward that person. You may feel him giving you a greater compassion for that person. God is infinitely creative, so be ready for him to move you in unexpected directions!
Jesus did not deliver an impossible command. Rather, he delivered a command designed to help you grow in his likeness. Right now, he is ready to give you whatever you need to love your “enemies.” Will you always get it right? No. But you will grow in his love and perfection as you try, and try, and try again.
“Jesus, let me know your love so that I can begin to love my enemies. Help me to become perfect as your Father is perfect!”
Deuteronomy 26:16-19; Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8
Emphasis mine because it’s an important reminder. Yes our challenges and our God-given purpose in life are unique to each one of us. As such, they require our willingness and discipline to make time for daily prayer, during which we can talk to God about our specific burdens and how to handle them according to His will. I also love the part about not having to “seek out enemies”. How true!
But for me at this point in time, it’s not so much about “enemies” in the traditional sense of the word because through prayer I’ve been able to let go of past hurts and conflicts, as it is about people who genuinely care. It’s much more challenging to deal with those in our lives who simply disapprove of our choices — no matter how honorable or God-given. If these decisions don’t meet with the expectations of others who only want the best for us (“best” as defined by their terms, not God’s), their words and actions can seem like those of an “enemy”. Thus, the same advice applies.
Pray for them after you’ve prayed for yourself. And keep on keeping on.