But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44 NLT)!
Friend to Friend
One of the frustrating tensions of the Christian life is Jesus’ command to love our enemies. Even more, Jesus teaches us to even pray for those who hassle us. Does Jesus’ command ignore healthy boundaries or our hurt feelings? Not at all!
In 2 Samuel 16, there was a man named Shimei who was related to the former King Saul, who’d died in battle. Shimei carried a grudge against now King David. During an angry outburst, Shimei threw rocks at David and his entourage while screaming that David was a murderer and scoundrel. That’s awkward, right? Imagine how David must have felt as Shimei yelled insults while the other Israelites came out of their houses and, no doubt, heard it all. Shimei claimed that David stole King Saul’s throne and that God would take revenge on David for the bloodshed.
David’s military men wanted to kill Shimei for his physical and verbal assault, but David gives us insight into his humble human heart. In his response to his soldiers, David reflects on how his son is trying to kill him so it’s not completely out of bounds that one of Saul’s relatives might have a beef with him. David told his soldiers to leave Shimei alone.
Perhaps you can relate to David’s encounter with the angry man. Who are the Shimeis in your life? It’s frustrating when you love Jesus and love others, but certain people just don’t like you. There are times when we will have to interact with people who make our lives difficult. How do we model godly character and behavior when we’d rather repay them with revenge or pettiness? It’s possible to show God’s love to others while remaining at a safe boundary.
In Today’s Truth, the word “love” is translated as agapao, or the active love that God shows toward us. For sure, we need His help to live out His divine love to others. The point of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:44 isn’t to make you a doormat for your enemies. Rather agapao love lives out God’s gospel priorities instead of plotting revenge. David showed a form of agapao love to Shimei by seeing God’s big picture rather than stopping Shimei from being a pain in his life.
David’s faith in God in the face of an enemy is a powerful, courageous example of faith for us. When enemies attack, instead of plotting revenge or pleading your case to others, God calls you to show patience and pray for your enemies’ repentance and salvation.
At the end of his encounter with Shimei, David hopes that God will see the wrong judgments against David and bless him for it one day. However, Shimei’s antics took a toll. His curses and rock throwing exhausted David and his men to the point at which they needed to stop and rest by the Jordan River. I don’t know why this detail was added to the end of the story, but it is a good reminder that dealing with our enemies can wear us out.
Here are a few practical applications that we can take away from King David’s story. Which one might apply to your life today?
- QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally – This slogan is a tool that equips you with a mental and emotional boundary that will keep you from getting caught up in the opinions of others.
- Increase Time with Friends – In the high season of conflict with others, add relational support by scheduling intentional fun or meaningful time with close friends.
It’s never easy when our enemies make our lives harder, however, Jesus shows us the example that we can follow. We can also trust God for the strength to face our enemies and demonstrate courageous faith that can make an eternal difference in their lives.
God, You love everyone, including the people that I’m having a hard time with. I pray for __________ and I ask for You to make the saving grace of Jesus real to them. I forgive them for ________________ and I pray that Your love shown through me would make an eternal difference in their life.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Who are the Shimeis in your life right now that are treating you harshly? If you were to consider praying for them in a way that reflected God’s love, how would you pray for them today?
More from the Girlfriends
Today’s devotional was excerpted from Barb’s new Lenten book, Finding Jesus in the Psalms. Join Barb in exploring how King David’s life reveals the life and passion of Jesus Christ and this experience will draw you closer to God and deepen your faith with one of the most popular books in the Bible, the Psalms.
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