43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[o] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I once heard it said that Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. (And this is not a biblical saying.) I do know that some of the words of Jesus give me comfort, and when I am feeling a little too comfortable in my faith, some of the words of Jesus slap me in the face.
Why did Jesus have to tell me to “Love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me”?
Because that’s how God wants me to train my heart. Because God doesn’t want me just to care about those who care about me. Because God takes me where I am, and hopes I will keep improving, growing into the likeness of God (in whose image we were all made.)
In our divided nation, it’s easy to identify our enemies (those who are persecuting us.) Our Lord and Savior tells us that once we have named their names, we need to hit our knees and pray for them.
Help me to pray today for those I least want to pray for. And maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to pray for them again. According to Jesus’ words, I pray. Amen.