Last week we saw that those who are forgiven must be forgiving. This week, we will continue that truth thought as we discuss praying for our enemies. In Luke 6:27-31 Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and to pray for those who hate us; to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who abuse us. Wow. Jesus tells us to pray for those who cause evil in our lives, even those who bring persecution – even those who abuse and those who despitefully use others.
This raises many questions, even in the minds of Christians: How can this be? How can Jesus ask this of us? Why does he call us to this? Why must Christians love their enemies, do good to haters, bless those who curse others, and pray for those who abuse and persecute? The answer to all of these questions can be found in Jesus himself.
The reason that we pray this way is because the one who calls us to this gave us the example to follow: Jesus can ask this of us because he has done it. He has shown us how and, as his followers, it is the road we are on. As it is for people of God, when Jesus asks something of us, he will give us what we need to do that thing.
Only Jesus can teach us how to pray this way and only Jesus can empower us to actually mean it when we do pray this way.
How did Jesus show us? He was the perfect example of interceding for his enemies.
Did you know that each gospel writer detailed the mockery and scorn that Christ endured? They did not give much detail about the crucifixion and flogging, but they did detail the mockery and scorn.
“We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” – Mark 10:33-34
Jesus knew the persecution and mockery was coming. He walked right into it. But, Jesus did not run from the mockery; he walked towards it.
- When Pilate met Jesus for the first time, the chief priests began to falsely accuse him. Pilate did not know what to do with Jesus so he sent him to Herod Antipas. Herod saw fit to mock Jesus. He dressed him in fine linen and then he and his soldiers mocked and ridiculed him as a supposed king. After that ridicule, they sent him back to Pilate.
- Before Pilate a second time, the Jewish leaders were going through the crowd inciting them against Jesus. This was evil-political-and-spiritual-hatred. Pilate washed his hands and ordered Jesus to be scourged and flogged. Jesus was stripped, shackled to a scourging post, and then severely scourged.
- Afterwards, a bloody and battered Jesus was taken back to the palace area. Then the soldiers mocked Jesus. They put a purple robe on him. One of them made a crown of thorns and they pushed the so-called crown into his scalp. They put a reed in his hands, mocking as a scepter, and they laughingly bowedd before Jesus before beating him with the reed while spitting on him. More pain, suffering, and mockery.
- Finally, he was brought back to Pilate and the crowd that has been waiting for him begins to cry out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate finally gives in to the political pressure and orders his crucifixion.
- Jesus was ordered to carry his cross to Golgotha, mocked the entire way. Upon reaching the place of crucifixion, spikes were driven into his wrists and then into his feet. The cross was hoisted up and Jesus was crucified – but the humiliation, persecution and abuse continued. A mocking inscription was placed over his head on the cross. Soldiers gambled for his meager belongings. Passers-by blasphemed him. The chief priests and scribes cried out, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel come down now from the cross that we may see and believe!”
Then, in the midst of this hatred, this mockery, this abuse and persecution, Jesus speaks these words:
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
In the midst of all of this, Jesus was thinking about forgiveness! He was praying to the Father, for those who persecuted and abused him. That is our example.
How can he ask us to pray for those who persecute us? How can Jesus ask us to pray for our our enemies? Because he did it and through him – and only him – can we pray like this too.
Love Your Enemies
None of us have gone through something that Jesus does not understand. He understands our greatest hurts, our greatest pains, and our greatest injustices. He knows what pain and rejection is like. He knows ridicule. He knows mockery.
He also knows the answer is not revenge. The answer is love.
Lay down your grievance today and pray for the one who has hurt you. Ask your Father to forgive them just as Christ has sought your forgiveness. Love your enemy and pray for them.