You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”
Lately social media (and society in general) has been crawling with controversy, and I for one have not been seeing much “healthy debate.” Hostility and rage are the norm, and I’m not going to insult my readers by elaborating on the obvious. Anyone who has been on line for more than five minutes knows human relationships aren’t what they used to be or could be, but few seem to have any answers about how to fix the situation.
But we who have a personal relationship with God – who created everything, knows all, sees all, and loves us all – SHOULD have answers. We should BE the answer.
There’s no shortage of individuals on social media describing themselves as Christians, complete with the vocabulary and their own style of virtue signaling. The latest revelation of corruption in our culture is met with appropriate hand-wringing and bemoaning the moral decay in America today. I’ve read comments such as, “I hope they burn in hell!” Most are subtler, but not much. Influential people who promote or support ungodly agendas, or who are suspected of working behind the scenes are described with such biblical-sounding terms as “demonic,” “pure evil,” and “Jezebels!”
But, to quote a movement from a decade or two ago, “What would Jesus do?”
Jesus walked this earth during the Roman rule, when the poor were downtrodden and taxed into oblivion, while the rulers built lavish palaces for themselves. Those who dared to resist could be seen beside the road, nailed to crosses or trees with vermin and wild birds feasting on their rotting flesh – a clear warning to anyone else who might be thinking about rebelling.
Enter Jesus, the God-Man, perfect Love, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, touching and cleansing the lepers, delivering the demonized, and preaching love – even love for one’s enemies.
And how was He received? He was betrayed, abandoned by His followers, stripped naked, beaten to a pulp, crowned with thorns, mocked, spat on, and nailed to a cross.
And how did He respond? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Praying for one’s enemies is about as counter-intuitive as it gets, but Jesus was living out this teaching from His Sermon in the Mount, when He had told His disciples to love their enemies. He had elaborated by saying, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:46-47) Clearly Jesus didn’t want His followers to be like everybody else. He even said that if we love our enemies and pray for them, we will be sons (and daughters) of our Father in heaven, who “causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (verse 45)
When Jesus prayed for those who were crucifying Him, He was resembling His Father. And when we love our enemies enough to pray for them, we will, too.
But I haven’t seen much of that kind of family resemblance lately. We’re good at righteous anger and having compassion for the victims. We pray fervently that the “right side” will prevail, but what motivates those prayers? Hoping the “evil, people” burn in hell?
When praying about the political world these days, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the corruption that seems so rampant, and evil forces that seem to be in control, even among those I had admired and trusted and expected to take a stand for what’s right. I’ve been disappointed almost to the point of despair.
Then I think of Chuck Colson.
In case you’re too young to remember (I doubt many history classes are telling his whole story), Colson worked for President Richard Nixon and had a major role in the Watergate scandal. He was caught, convicted, and sentenced to prison. This man went from being one of the most powerful men in the world to being a convicted felon with a number.
But something changed. Someone had been praying for him.
Before Colson went to prison a friend gave him a copy of C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity and told him about the God who loved him even while he was a sinner and died in his place so he – Charles Colson – could be forgiven and “born again.” After wrestling with his pride and self-sufficiency, which was pretty well shot by this point, he surrendered his life to Jesus. Through providential circumstances, Colson was released early, but not after his life had been transformed by the humbling experience of being a “nobody” in the eyes of the world. He went on to write a best-selling book, Born Again, which had the country talking about what exactly that phrase meant.
And, keeping the promise he had made to his fellow inmates, Chuck Colson went back to prison – not as a convict this time, but as the founder of a new ministry, Prison Fellowship. In the decades to come Prison Fellowship would minister to millions of prisoners world-wide, sharing the same Good News that had changed Colson’s life Meanwhile, with his knowledge of law, history, and government, he spoke to millions daily about the Christian world view through his radio program “Breakpoint,” as well as speaking engagements all over the world.
When I pray for the people who seem totally corrupted by evil, I do pray, like many, that the guilty will be caught and brought to justice, but it’s because if that happens, there’s a chance that they, like Chuck Colson, could repent and be transformed into a glorious child of God. If not, they likely will go to their graves believing they got away with what they’ve done, only to face eternal justice. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
My wildest dream as I pray for the situation today is that God will raise up a thousand Chuck Colsons for His glory!
Will you pray that with me?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your prayer for the ones who crucified You proved that You can love anyone, and your transformation of Chuck Colson proves that You can save anyone. We pray for those who are caught up in today’s corruption, that they might be stopped in their tracks and be brought to justice. We pray they will learn the futility of trusting in themselves. May they surrender their lives to You and be reborn to new life. Make them trophies of grace that tell the world of Your transforming power, in Jesus name, Amen.