Love Your Enemies and Pray for those Who Persecute You

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GENESIS 13:5-15:21 | MATTHEW 5:27-48 | PSALM 6:1-10 | PROVERBS 1:29-33

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The story of Abram continues with the account of Abram and his nephew Lot and their two families, living together at first, and then parting ways.  Abram gives Lot the choice to select the land he wishes to settle in, and when Lot picks the fertile regions of Sodom toward the East, Abram remains in Canaan. 

God again reiterates the promise initially made to Abram:  “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

Lot chooses the greener pastures but misfortune befalls him, and when he is taken captive by the plundering and looting neighbors in the region, it is Abram who comes to rescue him.

Now, if the Covenant that God had already made with Abram wasn’t convincing enough, God tells Abram the same thing yet again.  He says:

Do not be afraid, Abram.
   I am your shield,
   your very great reward.”

But Abram wants specifics, and he wants it now.  He complains he has no progeny, and so God says to him:  “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 

There is something so very intimate in this exchange between Abram and God.  God tells him something, Abram wants to be reassured, and God seems to say:  yes, I understand, not to worry, I will take care of it! 

But here comes the sweet part:  Abram then BELIEVES.  The text says:  6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

That is how valuable the exercise of belief is! The Lord God Almighty is pleased with Abram’s belief in him, and credits it to him as righteousness.

Turning next to our reading in the book of Matthew, we continue to learn about Jesus’ preachings.  Jesus begins to give practical advice on matters of daily living and relationships.  He certainly has a new definition for adultery!  The point here is that none ought consider themselves above such base human qualities.  Lust exists in our human condition as much as anything else, and therefore it is not right for any of us to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

The verse on divorce is open to debate.  Given everything else that Jesus said and did, it is not in character for Jesus to draw such a harsh line.  He goes on to say some other things that appear to fly in the face of everything we associate with pride and personal dignity.  Things such as letting people take advantage of you, and letting them get away with poor form, and going over and above your call of duty to help them. 

What manner of teaching is this?  How can one find the strength and motivation to do any of the above if it isn’t for the grace of God and the love of God that allows you to forget self and put the other first?

And yet, that is exactly what Jesus does for us.  He put us first.  Jesus says:  38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Jesus then goes on to say the most unheard of and radical things.  Things such as love for your enemies.  Who does that?!  And yet, he is trying to teach us to imbibe the divine qualities of forgiveness.  That last line is an exhortation for us to try as much as we can to be like God, our Heavenly Father, because we have been made in His image. 

Jesus says this:  43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Psalm for the day is one that David must have written on a bad day.  🙂  In true form, David spares no words in telling God how miserable he feels and how badly he needs God’s deliverance.  He cries with utmost confidence:

4 Turn, LORD, and deliver me;
   save me because of your unfailing love.
5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
   Who praises you from the grave?

Finally, a few verses from the book of Proverbs, in continuation with yesterdays thoughts of turning away from God to the point that God might also turn away from you.  Solomon serves as God’s mouthpiece in these lines:

30 Since they would not accept my advice
   and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
   and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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