“Pray for who’s-it… wha-whaaaat?”
No, that’s not the latest viral dance sequence or the hottest new pop song. It’s most likely the kind of reaction people will have when I tell them them to pray for their opponent. Yet I’ve been hearing it for quite a while from pastors, media and even the bible. The more I experiment with it, the more I understand it, the more I want to publicly address it.
First off, let’s loosely define the word “Enemy”
How to use the word “enemy”, it’s been a struggle for me for the past few years. In my partially broken mind, I often want to call out “enemy” toward anyone who’s ever hurt myself or my own. But in my heart and soul I feel like reserving the term for those who have no function; except to promote evil. I’m talking about things like demons and their master, not people.
And, dare I say “brother” or “sister” when referring to an opponent. I’ll get into that in a bit.
Where do we get the message “Pray for your enemy”?
I’ve heard and seen it in many places such as media, church and streaming from the mouths of pastors and the like. The bible also carries the message in more than one place; for example; "But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you" -Matthew 5:44, 43 (NIV).
How easy (or hard) is it?
(Writer struggling to find words)... It's... [nope, can't say that in family oriented content]...
Okay; it's downright, absolutely, insanely, ridiculously hard (for lack of better words, and continued use of parentheses).
It's completely anti-intuitive. It goes against not only basic instinct; but long-time, deeply engrained modes of dealing with social conflict.
We get worn into these grooves of hating each other. Forgiveness seems to have become one of the hardest things on the planet (I have a video series on that). Technology doesn't help either. We can send off an angry message, pull a quick trigger or push a simple button marked "destroy"; all much quicker than we can think about the benefits of approaching with a cool heart.
When I say I know it's hard that's an understatement. And believe me; not only have I tested others, I've been tested myself. I'm not talking about some guy bumping my shoulder walking down the street. I'm talking about much, much worse (of which I'm not ready to go into). Just believe me; for some of what my family and I have gone through, most would not last within the boundaries of compassion.
Why would someone forgive an opponent?
I don't know which it starts with; the benefits to those who forgive, the benefits to those who need to be forgiven, or the benefits that go out to everyone. In any case, I've seen things done in two ways:
1. Run the race. This is the competition where whoever hurts the other one the most wins. A belief is held that when a person does something wrong, they need to be punished as harshly as possible. The finish line is never found because under that philosophy, it works in an insane way. Person A commits an offense. Person B commits an offense in the name of punishing Person A. Person C must now commit an offense in order to punish Person B. Oh boy; now Person C has to be punished, so let's call Person D up for the job. It never ends.
In other words; adding drops of anger, violence or persecution to the bucket do not make the bucket lose substance. They make the bucket continue to overflow no matter how and why the participant thinks the bad behavior is justified. And make no mistake; EVERYONE who harms someone else thinks they have a good reason for their actions.
Why forgive? Why not justify bad behavior with more bad behavior, especially when it's so easy to find information on how to harm someone else? I'll give you a few reasons:
1. God thinks you're out of bounds. It was he who created a balanced system that involves compassion, wisdom, forgiveness and the sharing of information that can inform people about bad behavior and stop it. In fact, all of that system and more hinge on education. If God didn't believe that, there would be no mention of forgiveness anywhere within the teachings given by Himself or those who work for him. There would be no need for it. Just throw people with bad behavior in the trash, then start a search party for the few who are left.
2. I believe God hurts to some extent. I've recently heard someone say that God doesn't need us and he doesn't need us to feel happy, whole and balanced. To some extent, I believe that. I'm sure God holds enough wisdom to overcome any onset of depression, without the anti-depression pills. But there's one exception in my mind, that for any parent who watches their children destroy each other there is pain, likely on the scale of "tremendous". Imagine being a parent and watching your children damage each other on purpose. Imagine how amplified that pain would feel if your children numbered in the billions.
3. That race mentioned above; it's not just annoying, painful and demanding of great loss to us all... it's deadly. The only way to stop it is to stop it; not just for the criminals, but also for the crusaders. It's simple... anger breeds anger, hate breeds hate, violence breeds violence. Those things are open doors to evil because you can't become a conduit for them without becoming saturated by them. Forgiveness toward those who've wronged us is THE alternative.
4. The opponent is usually a brother or sister; and yes, call it what you will; bad information, possession, demon, etc. In any case, that opponent is like the rest of us. We're not built to destroy each other. We're built to work together. That's the way God intended it. That's the way it works when it works. To harm someone takes a wrong turn, a misguided ride where a person is given bad information; information that says it's okay to work against what God intends for us. So when I pray for my enemy/opponent, I pray for the purpose of freeing my family member from the chains of false information.
Pretty simple. Just ask God to help the person to see what they're doing wrong and be given open doors to better ways of social interaction.
I know that responses of compassion, empathy and forgiveness are some of the very few ways to rescue people from darkness. Prayer is another. I've also tried the path of revenge and it never works... never. In the end when I leave this body, I just want to meet up with as many of my universal family members as I can. And I owe God the patience toward others as they cause damage, as he once gave me before I broke free from darkness.
The Forgiveness series. How and why to let go of anger and resentment, and how to forgive yourself.
Forgiveness pt 1 - Why God wants us to forgive
Forgiveness pt 2 - How to do it
Forgiveness pt 1 - Forgiving yourself, the other side of the coin
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