“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6: 27
As we expose our hearts in prayer, our hearts soften in love and our eyes begin to see life through God’s eyes of love. As a result, we are changing. We are being transformed. We are being set free to be who God made us to be–people who love as God loves.
Love moves us beyond ourselves and our circle of family and friends. Love moves us even to a different relationship with those whom we have come to see as enemies. People who hate us, or mistreat us, or curse us, or in some way threaten us become people that we now know are loved by God. They become people for whom we are called to pray–people we are called to treat with kindness and respect.
This call to love our enemies, to pray for them and to do good to them, is a call to radical change. Our instinct is to judge those who are unkind to us and to defend ourselves against them. Our instinct is to see them as less than human, less than precious, less than people loved by God. We want to return hate for hate, cursing for cursing, mistreatment for mistreatment. It seems right. It seems fair. It seems like something we should be able to do in the name of justice, believing God is on our side.
But this is not the way of Love. This is not God’s way. To pray is to be radically transformed by the God whose essence is love. To pray is to express this radical transformation by praying blessing on those who curse us and by being kind to those who mistreat us.
Nelson Mandela did this. He was imprisoned in South Africa’s jails for much of his adult life because he sought political change in his country. In the years that he was held against his will he befriended his guards. He treated them with kindness. He showed them love. This love did not end when he was eventually freed. It did not end when he was made president of his country. He seated these men as guests of honor on the platform when he was sworn into office.
Mandela could have returned hatred for hatred and lived a bitter life. But he extended loving respect to his captors and this changed everything. It kept him grounded in love. And it planted seeds of peace and reconciliation that blossomed into the first fruits of the healing of a nation.
The story of President Mandela stirs something deep in our spirits. It stirs a recognition of who we really are, of who God made us to be, of the love that we are capable of when we allow God to heal us and free us.
Prayer leads to this. Prayer becomes this. It leads to praying for our enemies, to doing good to those who hate us. What might we pray when we pray for our enemies? We might pray for our own eyes and hearts to open in love so that we can see them as valued and loved by God. We might pray for their eyes and hearts to open so that they might know themselves to be loved by their Maker. We might pray for humility and wisdom to know how to be the expression of God’s love to them. We might pray for peace, justice and reconciliation to come to them and to us that we might all know together God’s healing love.
You know that when someone is unkind to me,
when someone threatens me in any way,
I see them as an enemy.
My instinct is to return hate for hate.
It seems fair to me. It seems appropriate.
I know this leaves me hardened and bitter.
I know it makes reconciliation more difficult.
You call me to love those that hate me,
to pray for those who would harm me.
I will need new eyes and a new heart
to see and love like you.
Help me to see in the way you see.
Help me to love like you love.
I pray for those whom I have thought of as “the enemy”.
May they know their value.
May they know your love.
May they be blessed.
Make a list of all those whom you consider an enemy of some kind–whether you know them personally or you just know about them. Pray for them. Ask God for the eyes to see them and a heart to love them.