I have been reading through the book of Matthew using a method suggested by Eugene Peterson in his book title “Eat This Book” He says that we can come to the Bible and read it according to our needs, our wants, our purposes…..OR we can come to the Bible and read it as the author intended it to be read and in doing so; come to truly understand what the author of life is saying.
Because Matthew is mostly narrative; I imagined myself as one of the crowd on the mountain Jesus was talking to. I imagined I was a person in the crowd who he singled out and pointed his finger at; saying the following words.
Mat 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you will become children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and he lets rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you greet only your brothers, what great thing are you doing? Even the gentiles do the same, don’t they? So be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
These words penetrated deep into my soul. The cut me deep into the very core of who I am. For to be honest there are people I don’t want to pray for. There are people I don’t want to bless. There are people whom I would rather large hailstones be rained upon them instead of rain. There are people whom I would rather God send lightening bolts to zap with such force it turns them into a pile of ash with smoke raising up..like we would see on a cartoon.
To TRULY pray for some people is the opposite to what I really want to do. Sure I might go through the motions and half heartedly pray something like “..And bless so and so... to be truthful though; there is no half heartedness about it… its probably more like 1/4…no make it 1/10th…. you get my drift!
There are people I would much rather pull down then pray for. Politicians; movie stars, boat people, terrorists, ex boyfriends and girlfriends. Ex husbands and wives. Perhaps there are current boyfriends / girlfriends; husbands /wives and or other family members and friends whom we are cheesed off with.
There may be people who we have every right to be cheesed off and angry with. Perhaps they have caused us deep physical, mental, emotional and other harm. In saying what I am saying; I don’t want to minimise the harm that is done. Instead; despite the harm that has been done to us through prayer we are able to truly forgive others for what they have done and in doing so find we find inner peace; despite what happened to us.
For the words of Jesus cut me deep and remind me of my imperfections and my humanity. We see that God desires us to treat all with dignity and respect. Not just those whom we like and whom like us. He wants us to treat all with dignity and respect; even those whom we find we have no feelings of respect for.
And so if you find that you are thinking; God I want you to zap this person with a thunderbolt; or thoughts like it; perhaps you would like to join me in this prayer.
Father God; I thank you that you treat all of us with dignity and respect. I thank you, that your will is that we will treat each other, with the dignity and respect that is deserved; for we are made in your image. Because we don’t treat all with dignity and respect, the world suffers the pain of broken relationships. Our nations, our societies, our communities, our families and therefore I suffer from the pain of broken relationships.
Heal the pain that I have from being treated spitefully. Heal and forgive the pains that our families, our communities, our societies and the pain that our world carries from ill treatment; including those pains that I have caused. And therefore because I do ask you heal and forgive our pains; I ask that you will help me; that you will help our families, our communities, our societies and the world we live in to be enabled to treat each other with the dignity and respect you would have us do and not only us; but also to treat you our creator with dignity and respect also.
This I ask in Jesus name. Amen.