Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:44)
1 Kings 21:17-29; Psalm 51:3-6, 11, 16;Matthew 5:43-48
Can you picture finally getting to heaven, and the first person you meet is the one you liked least on earth? Imagine that! God loved that person and was calling him or her to perfection too. Or what about all the evil characters you’ve come across in the Bible—people like Pharaoh or Jezebel or King Herod? They don’t fall outside the scope of God’s loving intentions either. What God wants for you is what he also wants for your aggravating neighbor, as well as history’s worst tyrants—that they be “perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Here’s another surprise: Your enemy can help you move toward that impossible-sounding goal of perfection. Here’s how. Jesus’ command to be perfect appears right after his explanation of how to treat those who hate us: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (5:44-45). In other words, if you want to be perfect, begin by loving your enemies.
Are you thinking, “That’s too hard”? Of course it is! Even when the call to perfection is narrowed down to this starting-point, it is beyond human powers—or it would be, if Jesus hadn’t suffered and died for us. But with the grace he has secured through his death and resurrection, we can follow his example of perfect love and start doing what he commands.
Try to cooperate with that grace today. Instead of harboring spiteful thoughts, say a short prayer for someone who provokes you. Think about whether there are other people you should be loving more than you do—not “enemies” exactly, but people you tend to take for granted, look down on, or dismiss as undeserving.
Start with those you live and work with. Pay attention to the thoughts that cross your mind as you read the newspaper or see a homeless person on the street. Ask God’s forgiveness when you discover your failures. Open your heart to receive the grace for a more generous attitude. Take advantage of every big and small invitation to love, and the perfection of the Father and the Son will begin to shine out in you.
“Thank you, Father, for creating me for love. Help me to accept your grace and take another step toward the perfection to which you are calling me.”~WAU