And then Jesus winked and said, “Love Your Enemies.”

This just in: startling new evidence that Jesus winked when giving his famous command to “love your enemies.”

You heard that right. Apparently two professors working through previously undiscovered texts from the 4th century have discovered shocking proof that Jesus intended his teaching as an inside joke and the disciples bungled it up when writing things down. (Though the sources remain unconfirmed, let’s just go with it for now and hope it’s correct.)

“Love your enemies? LOL.” PC: Wikipedia

What a relief. I always felt that this command to “pray for those who persecute you” was unreasonable and ridiculous, but there it was, written in red, and what were we to do about it? Well, I mean I know what we did with his teaching about enemy love. We ignored it. We felt embarrassed by it. We explained it away. We sped up our reading so we could get on with teachings less weird and more obviously relevant to our personal lives.  And certainly not so out of touch with the complex political realities facing us today. (I mean, clearly Jesus had never heard of zealous extremists or oppressive regimes? He’d never have said things like that if he knew what it was like to be crushed by godless rulers.)

We did what we had to do. But now, with this new discovery, we don’t need to feel guilty anymore for ignoring what Jesus said while we bomb our enemies back into the stone-age. Now we don’t need to dance around in the Old Testament in an attempt to jive our holy wars with Jesus’ seemingly non-violent stance in the New Testament. We don’t need to conjure a defense for our just actions of recompense when slighted at work or our plan to fastidiously ignore our difficult neighbour. And we are certainly off the hook when it comes to welcoming those refugees and Muslims and foreigners into our country.

All of that is gone now! Jesus wasn’t serious after all!

Whew.

Now, I wonder what else he wasn’t serious about?

 

 

Have you prayed for those you hate?

There’s plenty of hate in the air these days.

We can feel the hate pulsating through social media; we watch front row as people struggle with fickle friends, nasty bosses, and difficult situations. We cringe as love turns into hate within marriages gone sour. Hate for what we are experiencing, hate for what’s been done, hate for what might happen. And hate towards those who are, or seem to be, responsible for it all.

In the conversations I have, people often feel a tension between justification for their feelings of deep pain and loathing and acknowledgement that fostering bitterness will only hurt them and others. We feed the hate, yet fear its toxicity.

So what is the way forward? How do you move away from hatred and towards peace?

Before we even get to truth and reconciliation, before we can even begin to touch on justice and mercy, before we can openly question or determine our actions, we must pray. We pray for those we hate.

Prayer is the only way we can begin moving from hatred to wholeness, because it is only in conversation with our Father that we will be able to see others–even those who’ve hurt us terribly–as people for whom Jesus died.  Knowing people are loved by God does not, for a moment, deny any sin or injustice or betrayal committed by that person; but it does change the terms of our engagement. It does change the way I think and talk about them. It does change the way I may confront them.

Through prayer, we allow the Father to “search” and “know” our hearts, to “see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) And, if we are open, the Father will root out those “offensive ways” and lead us into true life. Instructively, this prayer of self-examination follows a jarringly frank admission of hatred from the Psalmist (v 21-22), where the singer molds hatred for God’s enemies into a song of praise.  And yet, as people who’ve received the rest of the story, we know how God ultimately treats his enemies–he comes as a man to rescue and redeem, to transform his enemies into his beloved children. (Romans 5:8)  In God’s heart, he sees any “enemy” through the eyes of self-giving, sacrificial love. That is why Jesus told us: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44) Our Father loves even his enemies. 

love-your-enemiesIt is as we are in conversation with this enemy-loving Father that we find our own hearts transformed. As we pray for our enemies, we begin to see them as the Father does–men and women in need of forgiveness and grace.  As we pray for their transformation, for their repentance, for justice and for mercy, we will begin to think of them differently than before. As we ask the Father to reveal to us his desire for them, we will begin to pray for them as we pray for ourselves, that the Father would root out “any offensive way” in them, so that he can “lead them in the way everlasting.”

As we pray, we will find our hearts more aligned with the Father’s heart, because we will begin to see through his eyes and actions the goal of turning enemies into friends, and friends into children of God.

The more we pray for those we hate, the less hate we’ll have to share. And not only will that lead us toward greater peace personally, but it will motivate us to lovingly confront our enemies as Jesus called us to, not seeking revenge for our hurt, but seeking transformation for their lives.

prayer