Pray for those who persecute you
1 Kings 21:17-29; Psalm 50:3-6,11,16; Matthew 5:43-48
Hot on the heels, as it were, of yesterdays' message, another hard saying of Jesus comes our way. "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you", rather than the old testament way of "love your neighbour and hate your enemy". Perhaps Our Lord is expanding upon his response to the question of the Scribe who asked Jesus: "Lord. who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10: 25-37). Now the scribe would probably have understood neighbour to mean all fellow Israelites, and specifically not those of other race or religion (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus responds with the Parable of the good Samaritan - which to the ears of his time would have sounded outrageous - that a foreigner could be a better neighbour than a Rabbi!
There is an important point to note - that Jesus says "you have learnt to love your neighbour and hate your enemy". But there is no line of scripture anywhere that tells us to do that. The Leviticus instruction was to love your neighbours and could be - was indeed - interpreted to mean that therefore those who are not your neighbour are to receive the opposite of love, which is hate.
But although that was clearly what Jesus said, His message is to contradict it. In today's encounter we clearly see that we must love our enemies - including those persecuting us. The language of comparison and conflict has been used to guide us to the real truth of how we must live our lives.
Today, let us pray that those engaging in conflicts, will Love their enemies. Through a real Love of our opponents will come the strength to deal with them justly and fairly, sparring life and injury whenever that is possible, even if the participation in that fight is justified (as discussed yesterday).
Every blow must become a blow for peace.