Now, on to the heavy stuff. For months (and years), I've thought about a specific verse. "But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.'" - Jesus, Matthew 5:43-44. While more than plenty can be said about his first three words, I would like to today comment on the second part of this passage. I would estimate all but very few of those who read this will ever face physical persecution for following Christ. However, I do understand (and have experienced myself) verbal, emotional, and other types of persecution due to beliefs, whether at school, work, or in life. So when that happens, per the words of Jesus, instead of retaliating we are to pray for them. Our instincts may be the imprecatory prayers of David, but these are to be prayers of love, for them (and us) to see the best way in the situation as well as to be reconciled to God.
Yet I don't think we should pray for just those who persecute us. I think we need to pray for those who annoy us, for whatever reason. Whether it's their political, economical, religious, social, emotional, relational, or mental beliefs or actions, whatever causes us to be annoyed by them, we need to pray for them. Main reason to respond this way? Jesus did. Yes, he called out the religious leaders and the money changers, but he did it to their face, as a call to holiness and for them to be reconciled to God. He didn't go slander and gossip about them on Facebook or email. Secondary reason to pray for them, related to the main reason? Have you tried sinning against someone for whom you just prayed? This goes for those who persecute you and those who annoy you. It doesn't matter the type of sin, it just becomes that much harder to wrong them after speaking to God about them and your feelings about them. (Yes, as we grow we will still sin against those whom we have just prayed, but as we grow that will become less and less the case.) So I encourage you to stop before you post your next hateful post, whether it's about a specific person or a group of people. Stop and pray, and ask God to help you see the imago dei, His image, in them. If you find yourself in front of Magistrates and Emperors, then by all means speak truth to them. But until then, let the world know we are followers by our love of all men.
Grace and peace,