We return for one more time to the topic of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. This week we are thinking about our enemies. By “enemies,” we don’t mean people whom you despise or are hostile toward. As disciples of Jesus, such an attitude should not be part of your character. An enemy is someone who is hostile toward you or what you stand for. These are also neighbors Jesus calls us to love.
• In Christ, I am a child of the Most High God, and because He is kind to ungrateful and wicked people, I will be merciful and loving toward my enemies.
Love for Enemies
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
The dictionary defines an enemy as a person who is actively opposed to or hostile toward someone or something.
Today is a devotion of questions as we consider Jesus’ words: To you who are listening – love your enemies. Are you listening to Jesus? Do you take care not to return hate for hate, spite for spite – but do good to them instead? Are you making an effort to not disrespect those who disrespect you, to bless those who curse you? Are you praying for those who mistreat you rather than wishing them to receive their just desserts?
I know I could use some work here. I imagine that you can too. Let’s pray about it:
Father God, when I think about those who oppose me or are hostile toward me, I think of ______.
As I pray for them now, I ask that You help me choose to love them, do good for them, and bless them rather than speaking poorly of them or wishing evil to befall them. In Jesus I pray. Amen.
[Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan woman.]
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
The Disciples Rejoin Jesus
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
The words of Jesus cited above are shared with His disciples in the region of Samaria, not exactly an hospitable territory for Jews. Many Jews avoided the area altogether, but Jesus saw it as a place to harvest. That’s what we see here as Jesus reaps among the Samaritan town of Sychar, enemies of the Jews. Jesus tells His disciples to “open their eyes and look at the fields.” With many in the town coming to believe in Jesus as Messiah, this was quite an eye-opening experience for both the Jewish disciples and the Samaritan townspeople. There is a natural follow-up prayer to this story. Ask God that this eye-opening and harvest-gathering idea occurs for you and for your fellow disciples also.
Father God, You are the ultimate Sower and Reaper. Show us how to expand both our fields of vision and harvest. Let us find joy in seeing the work of sowers and reapers coming together in a harvest of lives changing for now and forever. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them
Compelled by the Holy Spirit, Apostle Paul is preparing to depart from Miletus and head into physically dangerous territory – enemy territory. Before doing so, he shares some poignant thoughts with his Ephesians friends and then comes together with them in prayer. But this is no ordinary moment of prayer with friends. If you read Acts 20:17-38, you will see that Paul believes (rightly so it seems) that he will never see these dear friends again. That is powerful stuff.
There is a lesson about praying for our enemies here. As with other types of prayers, it is a good practice to pray with other people. Paul often called on his fellow brothers and sister in Christ to pray for him – and for those to whom he would be ministering. That meant enemy territory and enemy attacks. Proof of Paul’s enemy attacks can be found in 2 Corinthians 11:16-28. The current situation drove him to seek out the Ephesians elders for strength and prayer. Who would you call on to help prepare you for a God-driven journey into enemy territory? Who might call on you to do the same?
Father God, thank you for the reminder not to handle life’s difficulties alone, but to lean onto and into each other for strength and prayer. Whatever enemies we face – be they human, demonic, or situational, let us do so with support from fellow disciples. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
~ Apostle Paul
Paul’s prayer is a good one for us – that we pray for God to open doors for us that we might share His love with others around us. Note that Paul’s life is focused on bringing God’s love to others. Let’s allow that idea to inform our Thursday theme of Prayerfully Re-centering around God.
What is the spirit of your life focused on? Is your spirit focused on serving God? Could you adopt Paul’s approach of bringing God’s love to others? If so (and maybe you already are!), how would adopting such an approach alter the way you live?
Repent for letting your spirit get distracted from serving God and bringing His love to others. This is a regular occurrence in the lives of God’s people and calls for constant repenting and returning.
Return to a life of prayer for those God has put in your life, on your heart, and in your path. Start now by praying for God to open doors to share His love with family, friends, enemies, strangers – and co-workers (who could be any or all of the above!).
[Create your own prayer for recentering yourself in Jesus' eyes.]
God loves us so much and wants to bless us so much that He allows events and people to interact with our lives in ways that we would never consciously choose. God's active process of humbling us is not to make our lives miserable but to truly make our lives awesome. What is essential is reminding ourselves of his power and goodness even when bitter arrows fly our way.
p.72, The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones
Thank you God for loving me so much and blessing me through events and people that intersect with my life in ways I would not consciously choose. As you continue to more deeply humble me, remind me to lean into Your power and goodness to fend off whatever bitter arrows fly my way. In Jesus I pray. Amen.
Paul concludes Ephesians with a warning and encouragement. Making disciples is not something done in neutral, safe territory – it happens amid spiritual warfare. There is always a battle to fight. As we help others deal with their sin nature and besetting sin, the devil works against us and seeks to frustrate the process and sideline people who are growing… but we do not fight unarmed or unprotected; hence the armor of God. In your own life, you too will struggle against the devil as you grow and change. This battle is ever-present, and the enemy will try to persuade you to justify your own sin… or he will shame you with it so you feel like giving up! To succeed, we must be ready. We need to have our armor on, prepare to stand our ground (Putnam, DiscipleShift, pp. 90,91)
Our Discipleship Prayer is an armor of God prayer we use in our discipleship ministry. It is adapted from John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart book and Ransomed Heart Ministries.
The following prayer mixes in Apostle Paul’s Armor of God description taken from Ephesians 6:10-20 with specific prayer language that you can use to “put on” each piece God provides so you can prevail in battle against the forces of Satan. The prayer helps you understand the meaning of each piece as well
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist...”
Lord, I put on the belt of truth. I choose a lifestyle of honesty and integrity. Show me truths I so desperately need today. Expose the lies I’m not aware that I am believing.
“with the breastplate of righteousness in place...”
Lord, I put on Your righteousness today to sustain me against all condemnation and corruption. Let me live and battle out of Your holiness and purity, and defend me from all attacks aimed my heart.
“and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
I rejoice in the peace I have with You God through Jesus Christ my Lord ; I seek to let that gospel peace drive my relationships with others as well that I may be ready to battle with enemies not of the flesh but of the spiritual realms.
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one...”
Jesus, I lift against every lie and assault of the enemy the confidence that You are good, and that You have good in store for me. Nothing today is coming that can overcome me, because You are with me. Give me discernment to see the attacks of the Evil one for what they are and deflect them in Your name.
“Take the helmet of salvation...”
Thank you, Lord, for my salvation. I receive it in a new and fresh way from You and I declare that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39) and the place I will have in Your kingdom.
“and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”
Holy Spirit, show me specifically the truths of the God’s Word that I will need to counter assaults and snares of the Enemy. Bring them to mind throughout the day. I know when Jesus faced the devil’s temptations in the wilderness, he always countered the Enemy’s lies with, “It is written...”
“And pray in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert, and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Holy Spirit, I seek to be in step with you in everything, communing with you in prayer throughout the day. In Jesus I pray.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
This parable is ideal for a week about loving one’s enemies. Jesus tells a story that includes a Samaritan, one of a people viewed as enemies by Jews of the day – and often treated spitefully. In this parable, it is a Samaritan (rather than Jewish compatriots) who plays the role of loving neighbor to a Jewish man who is in need. But not only does the Samaritan man stop to help this enemy in need, he then goes out of his way to make sure the injured Jewish man has his upcoming needs met during recovery as well.
Within the context of this story is a basic lesson about loving your neighbor: It’s not about who is your neighbor, but to whom are you a neighbor. If someone is in your life, on your radar, part of your world, they are to be loved by you in the name of Jesus.
I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.
Our theme for the week can be a disquieting one – loving those who hate us or mistreat us. It may dredge up feelings of rejection, betrayal, or disappointment. John’s blessing of “Peace to you” is easy among friends, harder among those who rub us the wrong way, hardest among those who hope to see us falter or fail or die.
But don’t let your enemies or struggles define you. Let your Father and Savior Jesus define you and strengthen you against enemies.