This may be unpopular, but on Sunday morning as our congregation gathered together in prayer for Paris, a different prayer was laid upon my heart.
I prayed for Paris, a city that I love and a people who have only been kind and welcoming to me and my family.
But I also prayed another prayer, not for the innocents, but for those who have evil in their hearts. I prayed for the terrorists. I will pray for ISIS – not that they might have the desires of their hearts, but that they might know the desires of God’s heart.
God saved Saul. Think about that! As Christians we know that God changes lives. We’ve seen it and lived it, but Saul, he was one of those murderous men who slaughtered Christians with evil and fury in his heart. And he became one of God’s most influential apostles. God changed his heart, his mission, and his purpose in life. If God can save Saul, can’t He save anyone? Don’t we believe that no one is too far gone for God? So today I pray for the leaders and followers of ISIS that God will reveal Himself to them as He did to Saul, change their hearts, and change their mission.
We are called to agape (love). In Matthew 5:44 Jesus says “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you.” Romans 9, asks us to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Does it mean we should invite them in for tea and cookies? Not necessarily. The Greek word for love used in these passages is agape defined as a selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love. It isn’t a romantic or brotherly love, but one of insurmountable kindness, a love will not let bitterness and hatred take root within our own hearts. Even now. Even in the aftermath of Paris and Beirut and the threats to our own nation, we cannot be bitter. And in that, God can use us.
Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you”
Romans 9:9-12 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer…”
Romans 9:14-15 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Still struggling? I learned a lesson last week about sin that reminded me that every single human on earth is part of God’s creation. He knows the numbers of hairs on their heads too. He created our enemies with a purpose and He loves them even now when they’re lost and He can still save them. God made every one of them. Agape is doable. It isn’t condoning, it’s knowing that these are people that just need salvation like the rest of us.
We are called to pray. Prayer is our greatest comfort, isn’t it? The knowledge that we can speak directly to God and He hears us? Like a friend, He’s there. Like a parent, He provides. We’re asked to “pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” but knowing how powerfully God can change lives, what a great prayer that is! We pray for our enemies that God might open their hearts, and we pray for peace in our hearts that we might not be anxious, but that the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil 6:6
I Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Phil 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Prayer gives peace knowing that God hears us (1 John 5:14) and will answer our prayers according to His will in which “all things work together for good.” (Romans 8:28)
What now? Romans 9:12 ends with the continuation of directions that we should follow.
“Serving the Lord;
rejoicing in hope,
patient in tribulation,
continuing steadfastly in prayer…”
I think that sums it up. The tribulation is clear. The hope is real because we do serve the Lord. So we continue to pray knowing that God will answer.
Matthew 5:43-48 “ You have heart that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you might be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Romans 9:9-21 is a powerful passages especially in light of recent events and I struggle with verse 19 that asks us no to avenge ourselves. On a personal level, that’s easy, but on a political level, I expect our country to defend itself and its people.
I Peter 3:17 “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
A comfort in scary times:
Psalm 56:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 56:16-23 is very powerful)