Love and Pray

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”
Matthew 5:44-45 (NRSV)

Love my enemies? Pray for the people who persecute (oppress, bully, torture) me? Seriously?

I remember hearing this verse as a child and being so confused. Why should I be nice to people who are mean to me? Why should I pray for someone who has treated my family disrespectfully? I need to be mean back to them so that they know I see who they really are. If I am nice to them, they will think they have “pulled the wool over my eyes.” If I pray for them, they might have a happy life and never be punished for their bad behavior. My immature little brain could not wrap itself around the message Jesus was trying to impart in this verse. Unfortunately, as I grew up physically, my mental immaturity stayed stuck in this type of thinking. For years as an adult, I continued to hate those who had harmed me and resent those who had harmed others and “gotten away with it.”

It wasn’t until I started doing some major house-cleaning on my own behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that I was able to begin to comprehend some of the things Jesus said, and why He was saying them. I have always been drawn to Him through His suffering; and as I began to clean out the wreckage that my unhealthy and selfish behaviors had produced, I started to be drawn to Him in a new way – the way I believe He wanted me to be drawn to Him all along. One of the most important parts of that recognition was that which illustrated the one thing Jesus wanted to communicate to every single person – Love. In everything He said and in everything He did, He was showing us how to Love. He knew that if we lived with hate in our hearts, peace would never be possible.

When Jesus spoke to crowds of people, or to his twelve disciples, He was speaking to each one of us on a personal level. When He referenced the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, He wasn’t just talking to them. He was speaking to the Pharisee in all of us, because He knew it was there. He knew each and every one of us needed to hear all of what He said. (He knows us better than we know ourselves.)

If I look at this verse from the Gospel of Matthew in relation to what is going on in our country today, I have to fight the urge to fall back into the immature thought process of my childhood. It feels so righteous to point at the extremist groups that have been in the news and sneer. I am justified in my judgment of them – right? It is difficult to admit at times, but that immature voice still lives in my head and wants to be able to pick and choose which enemies or which persecutors that Jesus might have been talking about. The thing is this – He wasn’t just talking about some situations or certain people. He was talking about ALL situations and ALL people who confront me with hate. He was telling me to love ALL people. He was telling me to pray for ALL people. He was telling me that His Father shines His light on ALL people, and blesses ALL people with the refreshment of His rains. He was telling me, that to be a child of His Father, I was to love ALL people, just as my Father does.

Jesus isn’t telling me all this to punish me or keep me from getting what I deserve in life. He isn’t telling me all this because He wants me to be a doormat and allow others to continue harming me. He is telling me this because He loves me. He wants me to have peace in my heart; and He knows that will only happen if the hate that resides there is removed.

Finally, it is most important for me to pay attention to the last part of what Jesus said in this verse. His Father shines down on ALL the people on earth. His Father sees all. It is not my job to make sure someone else gets what they deserve or is “called out on the carpet” for their bad behaviors. God will take care of sending the rain, and the judgments, and the rewards. All He has asked me to do is Love and pray.


  1. Thanks for this, Jessica! During WWII, Rev. A. J. Muste was asked a hostile question: “So, does your pacifism mean that you love Hitler?” Muste answered without a pause: “If I can’t love him, then I can’t love anyone.” Your entry made me remember A. J. Thanks for that.

    Liked by 1 person

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