Say what? Love, Enemies, Abuse, Persecution... in the same sentence?!
Today is a tough one.
What comes to mind, friend?
It saddens me to know that you probably didn't need long to think of an enemy. A time of hurt or abuse. Someone who persecuted you. I can't imagine the depths of your pain or the difficulty of your trial.
But perhaps, you can't.
You may have been blessed with a relatively rosy life. Good for you! I rejoice in your joy and peace.
Maybe in your safety, you wince at the injustice around you.
The hardships others might face, past or present, near or far. You empathize with their battles, weep for their pain, as they struggle to survive and overcome.
As I'm pondering these passages, I think of the hardships you may have endured. I ruminate on the abuses that take place today, all over the world.
I also know what's taken place in my own life, my own heart.
Scars and wounds from old abuses. People and circumstances and the hurts that came with them. They've all given me a bit of a limp.
I know God's love has saved me, healed me, made me whole spiritually in His sight. But I still feel the places where those words, those actions, pierced me. Phantom pain of harm inflicted, both past and present.
This is a life long lesson. Filling up on His love, so I can love my enemies.
Love those who've hurt and abused me through no fault of my own. Love those who have pushed and persecuted me in my innocence.
Filling up on His Love: Psalm 59:1-4, 9, 16-17
Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
protect me from those who rise up against me.
Deliver me from evildoers
and save me from bloodthirsty men.
See how they lie in wait for me!
Fierce men conspire against me
for no offense or sin of mine, O Lord.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
Arise to help me; look on my plight!
O my Strength, I watch for you;
you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.
But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.
O my Strength, I will sing praise to you;
you, O God, are my fortress, my love God.
Have you ever prayed this? Or something like it? Called out to God to deliver you from evil, hurt, hardship? Asked him to save you, help you, see you in your strife?
I am so glad I can let God have it. I can cry out with all I've got, weep and wail and mourn my abuse and persecution.
I can rest in His love. I can pour out love when it is difficult or painful because of the love poured over me. A love from the most powerful God. A love filled with strength and safety.
I need to immerse myself in this love, let His strength flood every part of me. Because when it comes to my enemies, my abusers, my persecutors, I can't deal with it, any of it, on my own.
I need to call Him Strength, Refuge, Fortress.
I need to call Him these things as I pray in my plight, reminding myself that it is not in my own power that I survive and overcome, but in His.
Pouring His Love Out to Others: Matthew 5:43-47
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"
Man. I don't like this one.
I'd rather just drink in God's strength. Call on Him from my pain. Find safety in Him as my refuge and fortress.
I don't want to love and pray for those who've hurt me. I want to love people who are easy to love. But what reward will I get? Do not even the pagans do that? Am I not a son of my Father in heaven?
This passage challenges me in so many ways. Not only am I called to love my enemy (which sounds ridiculously impossible). I'm called to pray for him, which might not be as hard since I can do it from afar. But then Jesus asks, "And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?"
I have to admit there are times I've decided to ignore those who've hurt me. But this passage reminds me to greet those who aren't my brothers. To reach out. Love isn't just a solitary prayer, it's an open hand, willing to stretch out in God's strength and power.
Today's challenge... Sing, Pray and Reach Out
Oh, my dear sister. I don't know who or what you have in mind. Only God knows who your enemy is, what persecution or abuse you've faced. I can't tell you what His next steps are for you. Only He can.
As Psalm 59 encourages, sing of God's strength & love. Out of obedience and out of need to fill up and remind yourself of His love. Go to Pandora and select a Praise & Worship Station. Check out Seeds Family Worship to get some scripture songs in you. Like this one... "Cast Your Cares On The Lord."
Next, I challenge you to pray about it. Pray for His loving strength to fill you in every way you need to deal with this person or situation. Pray to truly know His love as your refuge and fortress.
If you can get there, pray for the one who has hurt you. For conviction, repentance, & salvation (Isaiah 56:7; Romans 5:6-8; 2 Timothy 2:25, source: A21 Campaign). Pray that they know God. Pray as the Spirit leads you to pray for them.
Reach out. Pray that if He has an action in mind, that God will inspire you to take that action, to reach out to your enemy or persecutor in some practical way.
Beyond your own situation, you may wish to pray and reach out to others in the midst of persecution.
How have you decided to complete this challenge? Share with me in the comments below so I can be praying for you!