As Christians we are stiving to be like Jesus lived and taught us to live on this journey. One subject that that Jesus had a lot to say about was love. We generally support the majority of what Jesus said about love, by our words and actions, but there is one particular aspect of Jesus’ love that the Holy Spirit has been reminding me about lately. It can be seen in action throughout the life and ministry of Jesus but he states it the most clearly towards the begining of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (NIV).”
It is a hard sentence to live out because it goes so directly against our human nature to stir negativity against those who hurt or annoy us and circle around those who are friendly and treat us well. But Jesus is quick to remind us that even the most evil person you can imagine (for 1st century Jews, that was a tax collecter) can manage to love people that are loving and friendly toward them. Christians are supposed to be Jesus in this world (1 John 4:17), we are supposed to show the world what it looks like to demonstrate love unconditionally, just like God does.
So we are asked to show love to the people who get under our skin, who actively work to undermine us, who persecute us, who kill and persecute people around the world, and even the most vile and evil organizations you can imagine. We aren’t aksed to stop at love either, we are asked to pray for them too.
This is important because it is through prayer that we learn to love those who hate us the most. I don’t have a perfect track record here (far from it in fact) but when I do have stuggles with adversaries in life, praying for them has led me into deep love for my “enemy”. Praying for those who hurt you or those you love allows the Holy Spirit the freedom He needs to craft your heart, to remind you of Gods’ unending love for you. Even when you are at your worst or you have been someone else’s enemy. He can remind us through prayer that no person, no group of people, is too far from His love to experience love, grace, and forgiveness through Jesus.
God transformed the hearts of the incredibly evil city of Ninevah after Jonah reluctantly preached there. He turned Saul from a person who systematically terrorized churches into the greatest missionary who ever lived. He turned a group of Auca Indians in Eucador from missionary killers into ambassadors for Christ (through the persistant love of their victim’s widows). If I can be so bold as to say it, I truly with all of my heart believe that that Holy Spirit is powerful enough to transform the lives of people who are lost in the world of ISIS as well.
When was the last time you prayed for ISIS? For the flesh and blood human beings who have been decieved by radically wicked lies? For the people so lost in darkness their only hope is a God who loves all people, even those with the darkest hearts.
This challenge is as much for me as it is for you. I will confess that until this week, when God moved in my heart through conviction, I responded to stories about ISIS and their hate with more hate. Now I ask that you will join me in praying for, what on most days, seems like one of the greatest evils in the world. Praying with faith that God can work miracles in the lives of people far beyond our wildest imagination.
When ever you see a story about the destruction and death that ISIS (or any other terrorit group) causes, pray for them in earnest. When you encounter anger, hate, and death in this world; pray that the Holy Spirit will fill you with God’s love, peace, and life. A beacon for God in this dark world. That is loving like Jesus loved.