Praying for Enemies

destroying_my_enemies_by_hellhoundp2k

Destroying My Enemies by hellhoundp2k

Matthew 5:43-48 (The Message)
Jesus said, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

I find it difficult to conceive of a more concrete way to love than by praying for one’s enemies. It makes you conscious of the hard fact that, in God’s eyes, you’re no more and no less worthy of being loved than any other person, and it creates an awareness of profound solidarity with all other human beings…. And you’ll be delighted to discover that you can no longer remain angry with people for whom you’ve really and truly prayed. –Henri Nouwen

We cannot love our enemies until we see those twin truths:
God loves me. God loves them. – Mary DeMuth

The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared? – Martin Luther

Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us the ultimate example of love for one’s enemies, both in general and in particular. The Lord forgave those who committed the most evil deed in the world – who crucified Him to the cross, and in such forgiveness the Lord revealed the greatest love. But on a larger scale the Lord also revealed the greatest love for us, sinners, by taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world, and that means our sins, too. Sins are God’s enemies, because they go against the goodness and perfection of God’s creation, and thus the Lord showed love for His enemies, i.e. our sins, by erasing them through His sacrifice on the cross. – Father Rostislav Sheniloff, On Loving One’s Enemies

Luke 6:27-29, 31, 32, 35, 36 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also … Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them… But love your enemies… Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

It’s hard to love someone really,
especially the annoying, the arrogant, the cruel—
because I want to be separate from them.
I don’t want to be one with them,
soiled by their sin, associated with their dirt.
I want to push their boat off in a good direction
but not be in their boat.
But to love someone
is to cease judging their cruel as more cruel than I.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, excerpt from Why It’s Hard to Love

Let your religion be this,
to tend to the unloved,
to heal the world with kindness
as you have been given unearned kindness,
to be present to the grace
that flows in and around you.
And those who are against you—
tend to them, for they are unloved,
heal them with kindness they can’t expect,
be present to the grace hidden even in them;
or you have already abandoned your faith.
– Steve Garnaas Holmes, excerpt from A Thousand Ways

You can’t know everyone’s struggle, but you can honor it. You can’t see everyone’s pain but you can be gentle. You can think highly of everyone even if they’ve learned to make how they live look easy. You can be forgiving; you can be encouraging and not judging; you can give people room to fail and improve; you can free people from your own expectations and projections. You can be so loving, in fact, that though it’s apparently hard for others for you it’s just normal. It won’t be easy, but with discipline you can do it. Be so loving that you make it look easy. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, They Make it Look Easy

Click the links for other reflections on loving our enemies by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
A Different World and The Other Cheek

Anyway by Kent Keith*
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People need help but will attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

*Kent Keith wrote this poem in 1968. Mother Teresa made it well known by placing it on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta in a slightly different version. As a result, many have attributed it to her.

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Day 28: Psalms of Victory

Stop the Violence by Bashir Malik

Today’s Reading
Psalms 21, 76, 144

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues the peoples under me.
Psalm 144:1-2

Observation
Psalm 144 is a warrior’s psalm. The warriors turn to God in the heat of battle- train our hands, deliver us, rescue us, fight for us so that we are able to raise our children and raise our crops in peace.

Application
I am uncomfortable with images of God’s people as warriors and the “expansion” of salvation via force. I think of how often it has been abused- the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust and countless other acts of genocide, discrimination and violence. We are never to be the aggressors, the tyrants, nor the persecutors.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9) Jesus calls us to engage deeply in peacemaking – praying for those who persecute us, turning the other cheek, forgiving 70 X 7, shaking the dust from our sandals as we leave.

Some Christians take these commands as an absolute commitment to a life of nonviolence. I believe the scriptures leave room for those rare occasions when all else fails and life must be defended.

It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work.- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Prayer
Jesus, Prince of Peace, You do not give as the world gives. You give your peace. A peace that passes understanding. A peace that is everlasting. Help me to join you in the hard, hard work of peacemaking. Grant me wisdom, patience, and compassion. Save me from rushing to judgment and anger and domination. Victory without peace is no victory.

Defend those who find themselves in the midst of violence-
Violence between countries
Violence between races
Violence between religions
Violence between students
Violence between family members
Violence over land, over ideas, over food, over rights

Change the hearts of all who seek their way by evil and violence means. End the violence and the death and the hate. Let there be peace on earth. Amen.

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You are invited to join me on a summer adventure through one of the most beloved books in the Bible, Psalms.  To download the Summer in the Psalms reading plan, click here Psalms Reading Plan

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you seek him this summer. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Quotes: Driving out Darkness

John 12:46 CEB
I have come as a light into the world so that everyone who believes in me won’t live in darkness.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When we realize that we do not have to be clever, powerful or successful in order to be loved, then we can live in truth, come to the light and be led by the Spirit of God.
Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John

Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.
– Norman B. Rice

Life has beauty and a joy that transcends all the darkness that surrounds us, that something ineffable lives beyond the ordinary affairs of the day, and that without this mystery our lives would not be worth living.- Kent Nerbern

As the sun illumines not only the heaven and the whole world, shining on both land and sea, but also sends rays through windows and small chinks into the furthest recesses of a house, so the Word, poured out everywhere, behold the smallest actions of our life.
-Clement of Alexandria

Destroy the cave Ignorance, and you destroy the mole Crime…The only social peril is darkness. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Luke 1:78-79 (NRSV)
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

John 1:1-5 (NRSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” he was identifying himself with the primal light of creation itself.  This should not surprise us, because as the agent of creation (John 1:3), he was present as the pre-incarnate Logos to bring light and life to the whole of creation (John 1:4, 9).  The Word became flesh to restore light/life by the conquering of darkness/death (John 3:19-21).  Jesus said it plainly: “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).   E. Stanley Jones captured Christianity’s sentiment by writing, “Jesus put a face on God.”  It is the face of light–the face that reveals God’ creative act and God’s redemptive plan.  We know we are in the presence of God when we experience “light”—when we have some form of darkness dispelled in our lives.  Contrary to the notion of some, that God brings “gloom and doom” to life, the Christian revelation, in the face of Jesus Christ, is that God brings “light and life.”
– Steve Harper, Lumen Fidei: Out of Darkness

Click Here for an inspiring message based on John 1:1-5 by Ann Voskamp entitled How to Get Through the Dark Places

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For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.