There are many times in life where we seem to think “that’s easier said than done”. It seems to be particularly true when we look at the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus taught radical concepts such as loving our enemies. The words ‘enemy’ and ‘love’ seem as if they should not be in the same sentence. Yet, Jesus not only places them in the same sentence, but he makes it a command.
Jesus not only taught with words, but he exemplified with his actions. I often think of Jesus being crucified and yet he prays for forgiveness for those who are executing him. He was not just someone who told his disciples what to do, but he showed his followers what it looks like when you do it. He tells us to forgive our enemies. Then, he puts that into real life practice.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’” (Luke 23:34)
They had beaten Jesus, mocked him, spit on him, scourged him, and laughed at him. They gambled for his clothing. How does Jesus respond? He prays for them. He prays for God to forgive them. If you want to forgive those who have hurt you, just as Jesus commands, then it begins with prayer for them.
We have all had people who have hurt us, betrayed or abused us, and to think of someone telling us to forgive them is sometimes difficult. Jesus expects us to be different than those who are not Christians. He calls us to a higher level of living. He calls us to true freedom in Him.
“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you, a good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:27-38)
Jesus tells us to love our enemies, but he also gives us the map for how to do it. He tells us four specific directives: stop judging, stop condemning, forgive, and give.
We must first commit to praying for our enemies. Jesus died for them just as he died for us. He desires for them to be in heaven just as he does us and we are to pray for them. We are to love them and want them to spend eternity in heaven. How often have we thought or said that we wished someone would go to hell? We, as followers of Christ, should never condemn anyone or want anyone to go to hell. It should be our desire that everyone go to heaven and it is our responsibility to acknowledge not everyone will spend eternity with Christ and the angels and saints in heaven.
As we prepare for Lent, this is the perfect time to spend time with Christ in prayer and seek to love our enemies. We can start with praying for them. As God how you can stop judging, stop condemning, forgive, and give more in your life?
Is it possible to forgive those who have hurt us or wished us harm? It is not only possible, but it is expected as Christians. When struggling with forgiveness, I often think of Pope John Paul II who went to visit the man who attempted to assassinate him. He forgave him and prayed with him and for him. Pope John Paul II exemplified the example of Christ on the cross. He forgave, prayed, and sought the eternal salvation of the one who hurt him.
That is the life we are called to live as Christians. Is that the life you are living?