I told a story recently about an abnormally large guy I played basketball with in junior high. The whole “love your enemies” stuff I had heard at church sounded fine… until I met him. I think he hit 6’5″ in the 7thgrade…To say he was not gracious about his size would be a serious understatement.He was a bully. Everyone was intimidated by him. I remember the day this giant of a boy cornered me in the locker room and demanded that I let him wear my brand new Nikes in one of our games. In case you are wondering, I was a rather small, gangly, unathletic member of the 7th grade team with size 12 feet, which made me deceptively… slow. The decision was clear. I would either hand over my shoes — or get beat up. Talk about persecution. While I played 20 seconds in old gym shoes, he scored 20 points…in my shoes. After the game he took them off and threw them at me.
I can laugh now; but the sad truth about the story is that this boy really had no friends. He had a pretty rough life at home and took out his aggressions on everyone (and it was everyone) who was smaller than him.
People often express their pain with hostility toward others. A close friend of mine who is a pastor tells a similar story; it is about a man in his church whose personal misery has driven him to make every effort to ruin my friend’s ministry. Not much different from my junior high Goliath.
My friend continues to minister to this man telling me, “every time I pray for him I begin to think of my own children, it’s like God is reminding me to be patient or saying, ‘He is one of my kids.'”
Difficult people in our lives are often driven by ailments we cannot see and how we handle their hostility can be a good measure of our hearts.
Reading the words of Jesus in relation to these types of folks can wreck your world (just a little). When Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, I can’t seem to find any place in the text that excludes 7th grade Goliaths or miserable parishioners from that command.
Sometimes, I get lost in the meaning of prayer. We don’t often receive what we pray about – even the things that seem to make perfect sense!
However, often when I consciously pray for people in my life that qualify as “enemies”…something strange happens. Like my pastor friend, I begin to see them in a different light.
Prayer is often more about changing our own hearts than it is about changing others.
Perhaps when we pray for our enemies, when we commit to pray for those who “persecute” us — it enables us to see those people for who they are — beyond their veneer — underneath the afflictions that ail them.
I can be more patient and compassionate.
I can see them through “God-colored lenses.”