Daily Devotion 21 July 2020
Matthew 5: 43-48 ’Love Your Enemies’
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, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father 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…you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
In this passage, Jesus admonishes us to love our enemies as well as our neighbours. He uses the word ‘agape’ for love. If we regard someone with ‘agape’, it means that no matter what that person does to us, no matter how they treat us, no matter how they insult or injure us, we will never allow any bitterness against them to invade our hearts, but will bless those who curse us and do good to those who hate us. We will want nothing for them but their highest good.
Jesus never asked us to love our enemies in the same way as we love our nearest and dearest. ‘Agape’ is a different kind of love, it’s a matter of the will more than a feeling of the heart. It isn’t an emotional thing but a determination of the mind. ‘Agape’ is the willingness to love those we don’t like very much and who probably don’t like us either.
Loving others, particularly those who have hurt us or our loved ones, is often a very difficult thing to do, but here Jesus gives us some crucial advice: ‘Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you’. We can’t go on hating someone in the presence of God which means that if we pray for them we can’t still hate them. So the surest way of killing bitterness in ourselves is to pray for the person we are tempted to hate.
God’s love is unconditional for every person that he has created. It doesn’t make any difference how far we stray from him, how much we sin, that love never changes. God may well not like a lot of what is done on earth, but that never stops him loving us. And his gifts are for the whole of his creation. As Jesus says, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”.
Jesus tells us to be true children of our heavenly Father – to be perfect as he is. The thing that most makes us like God is the love which never ceases to care for people, no matter what they do. At its simplest, it’s when we care for others, regardless of who and what they are, regardless of how they have treated us, that we are at our most perfect, at our most like God.
Creator God, we marvel at your boundless love for each one of us, despite the numerous times we sin against you. We give you thanks for that unconditional love. We know that there are times when we find even loving our friends difficult, let alone our enemies. Forgiving those who have hurt us deeply can feel impossible. We pray that we may want to forgive them, may want to love them, even when we can’t yet do so. Cast out of us, we pray, any thoughts of justification we may have for hatred. May we learn to love as you love. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Reflection and Prayer © 2020 Ann Caffyn.
Image freely available online.
A printable version of this Daily Devotional can be downloaded from here
All material within this order of worship is reproduced by permission under CCL 1226356