“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Romans 12:14, 17-19
It was early on a quiet Sunday morning. I was nestled comfortably in my chair listening to the rain lightly falling and birds chirping outside with the anticipation of spring’s arrival. I had been studying the sixth commandment that week about not murdering and reflecting on the depth of the command going deeper, addressing the issue of anger. My study led me to Romans 12, and I read the words, “Bless those who persecute you.”
The Holy Spirit whispered, “I want you to go beyond just praying FOR them and pray for me to bless them.”
Suddenly, I was not comfortable anymore. His words caused my eyes to sting with tears and my human thought-response to scream, “No! That’s not fair!” In recent years, I have learned to pray for my enemies in a way that earnestly requests that their eyes be opened to the workings of the Lord. I haven’t always been perfect and have definitely failed, but He has been so patiently teaching me to go to Him in prayer rather than lash out at or about my enemies.
However, now the Lord was asking me to take this further. He was asking for me to love them so deeply that I prayed for blessings in their lives, despite how they treated me.
This familiar nudging of the Holy Spirit is difficult, but precious, isn’t it? It is a great reminder of our daily responsibility to deny ourselves, follow Him, and do the hard things that our flesh vehemently opposes. As long as I’m in human form, I will struggle with this, but I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities to continually practice what the Word and the Holy Spirit has shown me.
This passage gives us multiple points to consider and they are in direct opposition to what culture screams at us to do. Rather than having a “they get what they deserve” mentality, Christ is asking us not to repay evil for evil. Rather than telling everyone who will listen what our enemy did to us, Christ is asking us to talk to Him instead. And not only talk to Him about it, but to also pray for them earnestly, with love. Rather than taking revenge into our own hands, He’s asking us to leave it in His.
So when you find yourself in a situation where you have been hurt by someone, it’s important to remember that Jesus loves them just as much as He loves you. It’s important to remember that hurting people hurt people. And as much as you want to retaliate, Jesus asks you to simply love and leave everything else up to Him.
It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s against our very nature. But that is a HUGE clue that it’s the right thing to do.
I also know how easy it is to make excuses for “your” situation. You may be reading this thinking, “Yeah, but ___________”. I want to encourage you to recognize that our real enemy wants nothing else than for you to believe your situation is different, and that in your own self-justification, it is okay for you to take matters into your own hands.
Does this mean we never say anything to those who have and are hurting us? Not at all. But it is important to really dig down deep to determine the motive behind any tough conversation you want to have. If the motive is righteous and handled in the right way, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. However, honest dialogue when prompted and led by the Holy Spirit is not what this passage refers to. This passage is referring to taking matters into your own hands and purposefully getting back at someone by lashing out in anger.
Back to my story. I didn’t want to and didn’t feel it, but I did pray for my enemies to be blessed. And I prayed for them by name. I also remembered that I am in great need of a Savior, too, and prayed for my love for my enemies to be deepened to the point of this prayer going beyond just obedience to truly wanting them to be blessed.
I desperately need Jesus to constantly refine me in this area. In what ways do you need refining?