Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Nathan Sell - Journey Church Middle School Pastor
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5 is a chapter packed full of some of Jesus’ most iconic teachings. He has just finished speaking on the subject of revenge, and now Jesus begins teaching on having love for our enemies. This seems rather fitting, since there is no way that we can have love for our enemies if we are seeking revenge on those who wrong us. If we are going to show love towards others, we must first set aside our desire to get even.
This teaching would have been rather surprising to the Jewish people. Remember, the Jews were waiting on a Messiah that would come and overthrow the Roman government, who the Jews saw as their enemies. The last thing they were expecting was for Jesus to come out and preach a message of love and prayer for one’s enemies. Show love towards the Roman government? Pray for the Romans? The Jewish people certainly weren’t expecting this message, nor would they have been particularly excited to follow this command.
If we are being honest with ourselves, we aren’t exactly fond of this command either. While we might not be struggling with the Roman government, there are certainly people in our lives that we aren’t exactly fond of, or might consider “enemies”. For us, this command might mean that we need to show love to those who have done wrong towards us, those who have differing political beliefs, or those who we feel are “out to get us”. Jesus challenges us to show love through compassion, grace, and prayer. Even more, He says that those who love their enemies act as “true children” of God. Are you feeling the struggle yet?
As children and disciples of Christ, though, we should strive to follow Christ in all things — thoughts, words, and actions. Think about this for a minute — when you turn your back to Christ and rebel in your sin, how does he respond? Does he disregard you and remove his love? No! Despite being enemies of Christ in our sin, he continues to love and show us forgiveness and grace.
As a follower of Christ, how are you responding to those you disagree with? How are you responding to those who have hurt you? Are you holding onto contempt and wishing God would bring judgment upon them? Or are you praying for them and trying to show the love of Christ to them so that they, too, can receive the grace and forgiveness of Christ?
“Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” These are some pretty challenging words from Jesus that go against all cultural norms. But, if we follow this command of Christ, we will begin to see him work some pretty incredible things in our lives and use us to be living representatives of his love, forgiveness and grace.
“Jesus, thank you for the love, grace and forgiveness that you continually show us on a daily basis. Even when we turn our backs to you in our sin, thank you for continuing to love us. Your command to love our enemies is a difficult one for us to follow. Help us to set aside our desires so that we can be living representatives of your love, even to those whom we don’t get along with! Amen.”
Daily Prayer Initiatives
- Jesus to change more lives as we double the square footage of our Castle Pines location.
- Momentum as we launch our Highlands Ranch location.
- Someone you can invite to Journey on Friend Day (Sunday, September 11)
- One bold prayer you sense God is personally inviting you to pray during the 21 Days.
Get to a place where you can focus and read the daily Scripture passage several times. From the passage of Scripture you read, highlight one or two verses that stick out. Write them down, and even consider rewriting the verse(s) in your own words.
Make some basic observations about the scripture you just read by asking these questions:
- Why was this written?
- To whom was it originally written?
- What is the author trying to communicate?
- What does the Scripture passage teach me about God and humanity?
After taking some time explaining the highlighted scriptures, begin to think about how they apply to your life. Ask yourself these questions and spend some time writing down your thoughts:
- What do these verses mean today?
- What does this verse(s) mean for my life?
- How does this verse challenge my thinking and actions?
- What changes do I need to make in my life as a result of this passage of Scripture?
Your response to the passage may take on many forms. You may write a call to action. You may describe how you will be different because of what God has said to you through the Bible verses. You may indicate what you are going to do because of what you learned. You may respond by writing out a prayer to God. For example, you may ask God to help you to be more loving, or to give you a desire to be more generous in your giving. Keep in mind that this is your response to what you have just read.