(Jesus said) "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" Matthew 5:43-46
When I read through the words of the Savior, there are times when I have to stop and say, "Really? Is Jesus serious or is He exaggerating just to get and keep people's attention?"
Think about it. Did the Savior really mean it when He said ...
* Luke 14:26 - "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple."
Was He serious when He told His followers?
* Matthew 18:8 - "And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire."
Another one of Jesus' difficult statements is in our text above where He tells His people to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. That's a tough thing to do. Yes, it's tough, but, apparently, it's not impossible.
As proof, I share the story of Christina Shabo, a refugee from Iraq. She says she prays for ISIS, even though they made her flee her country and have violently murdered some of her family. She says, "I asked Jesus for the grace to forgive every time I would pray ...."
(IF YOU ARE SHARING THIS DEVO, you may wish to omit sharing the fact that ISIS killed one of Shabo's relatives, chopped his body into a dozen pieces, and delivered it to his family in a bag.)
I'm impressed by such a mature faith in someone so young. Yes, I'm impressed and just a bit ashamed because my natural bent might easily be to seek revenge or ask the Lord to strike down those mad persecutors of His people.
Apparently, the Savior was serious when He told us to pray for our enemies.
He knew that for us to demand an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life would soon leave everyone blind, toothless and dead. The truth is Jesus came into this world to change things. His life, suffering, death and wonderful resurrection changed the eternal destiny of all who are brought to faith in Him.
And His example of forgiveness given from the cross shows He expects those who come after Him to be different. They are to love when it is not returned, to help when it is not appreciated, to care when it is not wanted.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, grant that I may be given a new heart, which is turned from what the world considers normal and acceptable. Make my life reflect my joy at having my sins forgiven and the peace which comes from being loved by You. In Your Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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