Friday, February 25, 2011

"Pray for Who???" - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 215
“Pray for Who???
By Rev. Greg Smith

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you because of your faith so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:44-45a CEB)

            What would you like to say to your enemies?  What would you wish for them?  If we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that we’ve entertained some sadistic daydreams where our enemies suffer all kinds of calamities, either at our hands, or at the hands of “fate.”  All too often we agree with the words of the Irish blessing that says, “May those that love us, love us.  And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.  And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, so we’ll know them by their limping.”
            Instead, Jesus calls us to love our enemies, and pray for them.  This way, we’ll be acting as children of the Father.  Remember, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9 NIV).”  If you call yourself God’s child, then you need to act like one.  You need to learn to love and pray for those people that you would naturally curse, if left to your own devices.  British theologian William Law said, “There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as prayer for him.”
            Louise (not her real name) was a member of one of my former churches where I served as pastor.  She and I did not see eye to eye at all, but were constantly in conflict with one another.  When the Lord called me away to serve another church, our differences were still not resolved.  They no longer mattered to me anymore, as I was no longer in the situation.  Apparently, they still mattered to Louise.  Years later, I received a phone call from her dear friend who told me that Louise had been very sick, and they didn’t expect her to last many more days.  On her death bed, Louise had asked to see me.  Me!  I couldn’t believe it—of all people, why would she want to see me?  Well, I drove the distance to my old neighborhood and paid her that final visit.  The two of us cried together and blessed one another.  And wouldn’t you know—the peace that she and I made that day lasted into eternity.  It was one of Louise’s final wishes that I (of all people) conduct her funeral.
            Now, Louise had been the bigger person in that situation.  Apparently, she had been praying for me all those years.  God had impressed on her heart that before she saw Him face to face, she and I had to make peace.  And I’m glad she used her remaining strength to reach out to me.  Yet, what haunts me to this day is why I never took the initiative to reach out to her in peace.  As her pastor, I should never have waited for Louise to take the first step.  I hope you can do better than I did.
            Is there someone who has brought conflict to your life?  Love them.  Is there someone who’s stolen your peace?  Pray for them.  Don’t wait for your death bed or theirs.  Make peace now, because it’s only the peacemakers who can truly call themselves children of God.

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