Before we get to today’s Scripture, which ironically commands us to pray for our enemies, we need to pause for a moment to pray for Ukraine. Waking up yesterday to the realization that we are watching a war in Europe begin was a shock. We sat stunned as we witnessed the merciless invasion of the peaceful people of Ukraine by Putin’s armies. Europe hasn’t seen an invasion of this scope since Hitler took over Poland in 1939 … and he didn’t stop there. Never in my lifetime did I think I would see what may end up being a Third World War. But I never expected to live through two years of a global pandemic, either.
And so we join our hearts with brothers and sisters in the British Methodist Church, who published this prayer yesterday on social media. As a European denomination, this situation is much closer to them than it is to us. All of Europe trembles today.
I pray for all people all around the world this morning. I pray for bold Russians who risk arrest to protest by the thousands in Russian cities. I pray for the orphans in Ukraine who, even as we sip our coffee, are hunkered down in dirty subway tunnels. I pray for peace.
If you are tired of worrying about all of this and want to do something practical, please consider donating to the orphanage. I have friends who have traveled for years to do mission work there, and this is a legitimate cause with a legitimate and urgent need: https://www.fathers-care.org
And now to our devotional.
Think of someone who has really, really hurt you. Someone who has wronged you so wrongly that you want to wrong them back with a vengeance. We all have people on that list. From the girl who gossiped about you in Middle School and made your life miserable, to someone who has abused you on some level, it is natural and normal to have enemies. I have them. I know you do, too.
What does the Bible say about how to treat our enemies? Get ready for the bitter pill:
Luke 6 (Common English Bible)
27 “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 31 Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.
Lawdy. Of all the teachings of Jesus, this may be one of the hardest ones to swallow. I confess that I would so much prefer to salt the wounds left by my enemies by recalling ad nauseam EVERY INSTANCE OF HURT they inflicted on me. Over, and over, and over. And then I want to hit back. But Jesus calls us to a higher response. Jesus commands us to love them. Jesus commands us to do good to people who have hurt us. Jesus calls us to a response that reflects the way we wish they had treated us.
Is Jesus asking for the impossible?
32 “If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 35 Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people.
Yes, this calling is hard. But he states his case beautifully. Should you be commended for only showing grace to the people who love you? Will you get a pat on the back for being good to those who are good to you? Nope. That is the easy way out. Being good to your enemies takes a lot more work. But when you do, you are acting just like Jesus.
36 Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.
And there it is. Being God-followers means we have to respond like God … with kindness and compassion, even to the ungrateful and wicked people.
37 “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”
I don’t know about you, but in the end, I would much rather be like Jesus than my enemy. Lord, bring on that good portion to us! And may we bring it to others in your name and for your sake.