I know that I don’t fully understand what real persecution is like. The kind that causes one to hide to worship God because they fear the repercussions if they are found out. The kind that has men on their knees facing imminent death. I don’t for a moment want to compare the struggles we have been through to the magnitude that those are….but we have faced persecution.
I don’t want to give too many specific details because honestly it is in the past and it doesn’t matter anymore…but there was a time that Dominic and I were persecuted by another. False things were said, attacks were made and ultimately God walked us through that time and has blessed us, but it was a painful time. Feelings were hurt and it can be hard to let those go.
Recently we heard that this person has cancer. We know no other details…just that word.
And can I be honest that the immediate thought that came to my mind was “they are getting what they deserve.” (Please know I am NOT proud of this either)
Immediately following that thought, was the command that I needed to be in prayer for this person. (THIS is ALL God)
When bad things happen to people that have hurt us, it somehow feels like a little bit of justice is taking place. Now let me temper that by saying that I too have hurt people, so by my own definition, I deserve bad things as well.
So please hear me that I don’t think that anyone who gets cancer must have done something to “deserve it.” Quite the contrary. What I am admitting to is that my humanness, my sinful nature, makes me react in a way that is not Christ-like.
I know that I am a failure. I can’t and don’t love like Christ. It is the reason that I need Him in my life every moment of every day.
But Jesus specifically said in Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
It seems pretty clear doesn’t it?
It doesn’t mean that it is easy though….
So I looked at it a little deeper…if you read a little more in Matthew you see this. Matthew 5: 43-47: “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 and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others?”
If I am seeking to model my life like Christ, I need to be listening to His words on how to live.
I was sharing my thoughts with two of my closest friends this morning, because this IS hard. I can know it, and believe it, but the walking out of my faith can be a challenge.
One of these friends shared something that hit me in a new way this morning. When Jesus was hanging on the cross he was in between 2 criminals. Now I don’t know that we know for sure what their crimes were. We don’t know how old they were or if they had ever lived a “good” life…but we do know that their crimes were serious enough to warrant an execution of this manner.
One of the criminals taunted Jesus and told him to save himself and them. The other said this… Luke 23: 40-43: “But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The 2nd criminal may have been a criminal all his life. But in that moment, with the recognition of his sins and the acknowledgement of the kingship of Jesus…he was forgiven – completely.
He may not have done a single thing “good” in his life up to that point, but when faced with the truth of Jesus he knew he wanted to have a chance at being remembered.
THAT is why Jesus came…if even only for that one criminal.
As I felt challenged to pray for this person who has cancer, I initially looked at it selfishly. It stinks to admit this, but I thought if I prayed and they found Jesus, maybe they would make restitution for the things they did…the things they said.
But God calls me to pray for those who persecute me…and I need to do that regardless if the offender attempts to make things right. I felt convicted today because I knew that I was putting conditions on my prayers. (<====Click to Tweet)
I will pray for them IF the end result serves me.
God’s love is unconditional. Regardless of how I respond, He loves me. If I am seeking to be more like Christ, I need to model my behavior after the example that was set for me.
So I will pray that this person will know Christ in a real, personal way. That God’s presence would be felt and that healing would occur.
This isn’t and won’t be easy, but it is necessary. As I make choices that are against my “human” nature and more align with a Christ-like nature….slowly I am being transformed in His image.
And these moments of transformation are pretty exciting!
“Change my heart Oh Lord, make it ever new. Change my heart Oh Lord…I want to be like you”
Photo Credit: Lel4nd