Loving Those Who are Hard to Love
There are some of us who may have had “enemies” at one time or another. Maybe there are some who are “going to battle” with family or coworkers or neighbors even right now. There are times when we can do the best we know how to get along with others, and, yet, there are some people who cannot help but pit themselves against us. Jesus has taught us clearly, here, about how to handle those situations and adversaries.
However, I would say that most of us would not title anyone in our lives as an “enemy.” And while we may not have enemies, we all certainly have at least a few people in our lives who make our job of loving them very difficult. Let’s argue from the greater to the lesser, then. If we are called on by our Lord Jesus to love our enemies, then we undoubtedly expected to love even those who only make it difficult. I have experienced this situation numerous times as a family member, as a church member, and even as a pastor. There are just some people who want to make everything difficult, including their relationship with you (and probably most everyone else in their lives).
Now, after setting the audience for these applications from Matthew 5, let’s go ahead and admit right up front- Hatred comes fairly easily to most people. When operating in the old, sin-nature, a person’s gut reaction to persecution, misuse, or even the smallest resistance from someone is often to get angry, hold a grudge, gossip, seek revenge, or any of the like. Love, alternatively, considers others, rather than just oneself. Love involves both emotion and action toward others. One writer put it well, “On the one hand, we are to be passive with an enemy, through nonretaliation. On the other hand, we are to be active with our enemies through love” (Moore). And another great quote on this subject says something like, “To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; but to return good for evil is divine” (Carson).
Of all the ways that we can practice love for others, prayer is one of the most loving things we can do. Holding someone before the Father is a godly practice with practical value but also fulfills the commands of Scripture. Prayer seems to be a great remedy for hatred. How can you continue to hate a person for whom you diligently pray? Also, I think that the Lord will consider our prayers and continue to work in the heart of the other person as well as in our own heart when we genuinely seek His will for our lives generally situations like these specifically.
So, after thinking about this passage briefly, we can conclude at least a few things: The passage applies to dealing with enemies and those who are hard to love; hatred is a default human reaction; but love is required from followers of Jesus; and one of the best ways to love those who are hard to love is to pray for them—regularly, specifically, deeply.