But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 5:44 NIV
We can imagine the faces of the people on the mount that day as Jesus made this pronouncement. They may have wiggled their fingers in their ears to ensure they heard correctly. I am pretty sure there were some puzzling glances at each other with quizzical, "What did he just say?" looks on their faces. I can say that because that's the same reaction many of us feel today. "Say what, Jesus? Love my enemies, pray for my persecutors, are you sure about that?"
But, in the next verse, Jesus gives us a reason: "that you may be children of your Father in heaven." When we accept Christ as our savior, we become a new creation and children of God. Then, filled with the Holy Spirit, we can do things we once thought impossible–including loving our enemies.
Christ also said we need to pray for those who persecute us. Our persecutors do not preclude our enemies (now non-enemies because we love them) but those others that may cause us harm—that person who cuts us off in traffic and causes a temporary spike in our blood pressure. So instead of yielding to temptation and doing something not godly, pray for their safety and ask for God's blessings over them. In doing so, we become blessed ourselves because, in our obedience, we demonstrate we are God's children.
God of love and forgiveness, we confess that we find it difficult to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors. We recognize that it is only through you that this is possible. Help us today to be your obedient children. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.