Evangelism 101

When was the last time we actually prayed for our enemies? Thought so!

Sure, everyone is familiar with Jesus’ teaching on how we are to love, bless, and pray for our enemies, but when is the last time we actually followed it? Since there is no shortage of people that hurt or frustrate us, there should also be no end to the blessings we pour out, as loving those who hurt us, even our enemies, reflects the very same love Jesus showed us before we came to know him–a love he commanded us to share with others!

What Did Jesus Actually Say About Loving, And Forgiving Our Enemies

To make sure there is no grey area in the conversation, let us start by looking at what Jesus taught in regard to not only loving our enemies, but blessing, and forgiving them as well

Luke 6:27-38
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you

(Look at how Jesus says he is speaking only to those who actually get what he is talking about, as he starts by saying “I tell you who hear me”, as not everyone is going to hear or read God’s truth with the mind to sincerely understand or apply it, which is why we must really push ourselves to embrace tough concepts like this one–God’s instructions are not always easy to follow!)

Wow, that is an amazing passage, as Jesus not only tells us to love our enemies, but to do good to them, bless them, pray for them, and lend things without expecting to ever get them back–all difficult things!

We know our behavior should be modeled after Jesus’ teachings, but in practice, it is sometimes difficult to forgive even our friends or close family who hurt us, let alone those who openly treat us poorly without any sort of relationship between us, so it is important to ask God for help to love, and forgive others when faced with even the most difficult situations

We can only reflect God’s perfect, supernatural love if we have it in our hearts to begin with

Also, in the passage above, look at how Jesus says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven”, “For the measure you use, it will be measured to you”

That is beyond mind blowing!

Sure, a lot of people say God will forgive us no matter what, but this is totally incorrect, as Jesus himself said the level of forgiveness we show to others will have an impact on how much God forgives us

Jesus taught about forgiveness directly, spoke about forgiving others in the Lord’s prayer, and even taught a parable about it–he was not vague on the subject of relational forgiveness!

Luke 6:37-38
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you

Matthew 6:9-13
This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one

(In Greek, the word “debts” means “offences, sin”, while “debtors” means “those who have not yet made amends with those they have hurt.” Based on these meanings, we see Jesus is saying “Forgive us our sins, just as we also forgive those who have hurt us but have not yet apologized to us.” Most people wait for others to apologize before forgiving them, but that is not what Jesus tells us to do, he says to forgive them anyway, and ask God for the same forgiveness!

Not many of us can say we unconditionally forgive others the same way we want God to forgive us, especially when people do not apologize!)

Matthew 18:23-35
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt

The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded

His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back’

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart

This passage is amazing as it shows God’s personality when it comes to viewing our offences against him, and how we should view the offences of others against us as a result, ie: we should be so filled with gratitude over how we were forgiven for a debt we could never pay, to the point where we show the same mercy to others

Also, take note that in this parable, the servant’s debt was forgiven, but the king re-instated the debt when the servant showed a complete lack of mercy to someone who owed him much less–amazing!

We always talk about how grateful we are for God’s forgiveness, yet struggle to show that same forgiveness to people when they hurt us, but why is this, what holds us back from sharing something so beautiful?

“But You Do Not Know How Much They Hurt Me!”

Okay, yes yes, so your feelings were hurt

All kidding aside, this is an incredibly common response to the topic of forgiving, and loving our enemies, as our hurt feelings, and/or anger often leads us to a place where we just do not want to forgive for the simple reason that an offense seemed so great to us, we just do not want to let it go

Maybe we do not want to get hurt again, or maybe we are just so filled with indignation at the injustice of someone’s actions that we choose to not forgive, but we are never told to do that, we are told to forgive in all circumstances like Jesus instructed

In fact, to follow his example, even as he hung on the cross, being mocked by the very people who had him sentenced to death, Jesus cried out to God that they be forgiven, he did not wallow in anger, self-pity or anything else

Luke 23:34
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing

Can you imagine praying that after having been whipped, tortured, beaten, then nailed to a cross like that?

However, even with this example in mind, we know it is not always easy for us to forgive or let things go, which is why it is so incredibly important to ask God for the strength to forgive others as he forgave us, especially when we are in the heat of a particularly challenging moment

Also, when it comes to forgiving our enemies, Jesus set another amazing example for us, as the Bible says he lay his life down even while we were still considered his enemies because of our sinful behavior

It was through this act of sacrifice for his enemies that God demonstrated his love for all mankind, which is also the same love we are commanded to share with others, including our own enemies!

Romans 5:8-10
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life

John 15:12-14
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command

1 John 3:16
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers

Those passages are absolutely amazing, as God did not command us to love one another without having loving us in the same way first, which includes forgiving our sins, and being patient with us while we work towards salvation–we should be eager to show this same attitude towards one another, even our enemies, as the purpose of doing so, is to hopefully have them come to salvation

If we seek to have the mind, and heart, of Christ, we should be determined to not let the bad behavior of others get in the way of expressing this same selfless, supernatural love towards everyone around us

However, this kind of love does not guarantee repair can be made in every situation, as making amends requires both parties to be willing to do so, but it guarantees we can forgive others without them needing to apologize first, and releases our hearts from all kinds of negative feelings–that is exactly the type of attitude Jesus showed to us, as he lay his life down to pay for our sins, even when we were still his enemies

If we truly desire peace with someone, we will not hold onto any bitterness or have a “They have to apologize first” attitude, we will seek repair above all things, even our own emotions

Since we know Jesus loved us so much, and was willing to forgive us so freely, what can we focus on to help us forgive in the same way, and how can we avoid being led around by our feelings when they get hurt?

If We Stop Taking Things So Personal, We Can See People How God Sees Them: With Empathy And Compassion

Sure, when someone hurts us our emotions may flare up, but that does not mean we need to dwell on them, no matter how intense they feel at the time

Proverbs 12:16
A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult

It is important to not be controlled by our emotions in the heat of a moment, as we are way more likely to do or say something we will regret later when our emotions, especially negative ones, are leading us, which is why it is so important to have the same attitude as Jesus, who asked God to forgive those who persecuted him, even while he hung on the cross–I am sure he was having other emotions at the time, but he chose to act righteously instead

One of the main reasons why controlling our emotions is so powerful, is we can look past our initial reactions when we are hurt, and focus on why someone would do something to upset or offend us in the first place, which is the key to having compassion, and empathy for others

For example, when I got mugged earlier this year and the attackers broke my jaw, I was laying in a hospital bed thinking about how messed up the situation was

It was an odd moment, as I was trying to figure out how I felt emotionally about what had happened, deciding whether I was upset, angry, etc… and thought:

“Well, I have hurt people a lot worse emotionally, which takes longer to heal from, and I feel sorry for whatever lives these people have that would lead them to do such a thing to someone, I am not angry at all”

You see, rather than focus on being attacked and my own personal suffering, I put things in perspective by acknowledging how I had hurt the emotions of a number of people in my past, which was a lot more serious than physical injury since emotional scars run the risk of never healing unless they are dealt with, and gave myself peace by showing empathy for the people who mugged me, as they must have had a very bad set of influences if they felt it was okay to mug someone so violently

Without a loving, empathetic perspective like that, I would have been tremendously angry, upset, and bitter, especially since my mouth was wired shut for six weeks!

Over the years, I have come to a place of understanding that if God has forgiven me for such a tremendous amount of offenses against him, as well as others, then who am I to hold anything against anyone because of anything so petty as unforgiveness or hurt feelings, that would be incredibly small minded, and unloving, which is completely contradictory to how God showed us so much mercy, favor, kindness, and love despite our many sins

Luke 7:47
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little

Seriously though, our emotions are pretty selfish most of the time, and they prevent us from truly loving our enemies, because we see them through the eyes of our emotions, not through the eyes of God

For example, we do not see the child who was constantly beaten and rejected by their parents, we only see the adult who gossips about us because they are insecure and jealous of our friends, just like we do not see the person who had no Father and had their heart broken repeatedly in previous relationships, we just see their emotional wounds as a barrier to our own happiness, and get upset without even praying for them

You know what I mean?

It is not like someone suddenly developed a mean streak because we walked in the room, they have underlying emotional issues, just like we all do, theirs just happened to affect us for whatever reason, but we can never take their conduct personally, as their baggage would have, and probably does, have an impact on others as well

This is why getting upset over offenses is so pointless, as it robs us of our ability to have empathy for others like Jesus had for us

When we allow our self-centered emotions to cloud tense situations, they tend to lead us into areas God does not find pleasing, as they often keep us from being forgiving, kind, empathetic, loving and/or righteous, not to mention we can instantly forget how much God forgave us for

Most importantly, when our emotions lead to sinful thoughts or actions, that is exactly the kind of barrier the enemy wants between Christians, as well as non-believers, as they win a tremendous victory when people will not show love to one another because of hurt feelings, let alone share the gospel with them in an accurate way, as it is supposed to revolve around God’s supernatural love, not human quarrels

Being unforgiving, bitter, and resentful towards others is a complete contradiction of the gospel, as it denies the very love, and forgiveness we claim to put the hope of our souls in

Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure

The next time someone hurts or offends you, do not take their behavior personally, but pray, asking God for the wisdom to answer them according to what he sees, not according to how our emotions feel, and be eager to make peace with them, forgiving offenses, and letting go of all negative emotions, even if the other person does not apologize

Colossians 3:12-13
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you

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