"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:44 NIV
The gospel of Jesus at times seemed unconventional to the religious elite by publicly placing the teachings, and misteachings, of the Law under the microscope of God. In the earlier verse, Jesus introduces one of these teachings to correct the common misconception, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'" (v. 43) Nowhere in the Bible does it say to be exclusive in love. It is quite the opposite, we are to be inclusive, but the teachers had corrupted the intention of the Law through false interpretation. This exclusivity jibed with our baser human instinct, readily accepted for its falseness.
A variation on verse 43 is the modern conventional saying, "I may have to love you, but I don't have to like you." When we consider this closely, we recognize it is a half-hearted attempt at complying with Jesus' command to love our enemies. But when we pray for those who mistreat and oppress us, we expand the circle of God's inclusive love in fully embracing his command to love our neighbors.
God, thank you for your inclusive love. We confess we falter in loving wholly and openly. Forgive us when we pick, choose, and corrupt your divine word to support our actions. We lift in prayer all our neighbors, especially our enemies. Please make our hearts of stone into hearts of your pure love. Amen.