Thursday, August 21, 2014

Church devotion: Love Who, Jesus? - Matthew 5:43-44

Matthew 5:43-44     "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.

            I must confess, I’m finding it extremely difficult to love those ISIS people who have killed many Christians, as well as beheading American James Foley this week. I can’t understand what drives so much hatred in religious people that they would commit such barbarous and inhumane acts. My first reaction is to get really frustrated and angry with these people, and I want the US government to do everything it can to annihilate them. It is so unjust and it is so wicked that my initial response is to call for an outright war of destruction.

            Christ’s words from this morning’s Bible passage (Matthew 5:38-48) hit me with a theological 2x4. I am guilty of the same religious self-righteousness and hatred in my heart that these people embrace and espouse. I am not any better or less sinful than them because I want to see them mercilessly killed. I am a Crusader Christian baying and battling for blood instead of praying for my enemies.

            I am wrestling with my Redeemer between what I want and what He says. I know that He speaks the Truth and I am guilty of fighting against Him. If I call Him my Savior, then I need to ask Him to save me from myself. If I address Him as Lord, then I need to do as He pleases and commands.

            So this morning, I’m praying for my enemies. I’m praying for their forgiveness. I’m praying for God to be merciful to them by allowing His Holy Spirit to change their hearts and afflict their souls. I’m asking Jesus to help me to pray because I still don’t want to do this, but if I honestly want to continue to call myself a Christian, I need to keep praying instead of condemning; I need to ask for love to prevail instead of power; I need to learn to love my enemies, instead of looking for ways to destroy them.

Questions for personal reflection

Why does Jesus make it so hard for people to follow and live by what He has spoken? Where is He confronting me in my life?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, You never said that faith in You was going to be easy, and You have never asked us to do anything that wasn’t important. Forgive us for feeling hatred in our hearts and looking for vengeance in our lives. Teach us again Your loving words and help us to embrace them. Be with the ISIS people, forgive them, and show them the ways of Your love to overcome their hatred and fear. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message or ask any questions, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s ‘Seven Last Words of Christ’ drawings called “Father, Forgive Them.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Forgive Them.

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