It was April in Buffalo, New York, and life was returning to the area as winter gave way to spring.
I found myself in my Marine Corps dress blue uniform, walking up a stranger’s driveway and doing everything in my power to not vomit all over myself. As I reached the front door I knocked, and after what felt like an eternity a woman answered, her face immediately going pale.
“Are you the wife of Sergeant Frank World?” I asked.
“Yes,” she responded as her two children played in the house behind her.
“I regret to inform you…”
I am regularly reminded of this experience every time I hear of an attack like the one that occurred this week in London. I’m filled with sadness as I envision the victims and the faces of their families as they are presented with the life-shattering news of their loved one’s irreversible demise. Almost immediately, however, I am filled with another emotion… anger.
My anger burns against the cowardly attackers who dishonorably target civilians instead of fighting our warriors. My anger is ignited against those who poisoned the attackers’ minds and manipulated them into committing the acts while they sit back and enjoy the spoils of sending young men and women to their deaths. These people are my enemies and, frankly, I want vengeance.
Thankfully, however, I don’t stay in that place for very long as the Holy Spirit speaks to my heart and reminds me of Jesus’ command to love my enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:43–48). It’s a natural human response to feel sadness and anger towards people who intentionally harm others. Yet God can produce “unnatural” responses in my heart — and yours — when we respond as he tells us to. Here’s what I’ve found happens when I pray for my enemies:
- I’m reminded of the grace I received when I was an enemy of God.
As I pray for my enemies, the Holy Spirit reminds me of the limitless, unmerited grace that I received as an enemy of God. In the very same way that the London attacker attempted to destroy the civil and just world in which we live, so too did I attempt to usurp God’s throne as I consistently and persistently built my own kingdom.
However, in the midst of my insurrection, Christ pursued me with His grace and saved me both from the eternal consequences of my rebellion as well as the temporal dissatisfaction of living for myself.
As I pray for my enemies, I’m reminded of how deeply rebellious I am and how vast the grace of Jesus is to cover my rebellion. He promises that grace to all of us.
- I’m compelled to tell people about Jesus.
As I pray and am reminded of the limitless, unmerited grace that I received, and continue to receive, I’m compelled to introduce others to Jesus. I’m reminded that in the same way the London attacker gave his life for a kingdom incapable of providing either eternal salvation or temporal satisfaction, countless people that I know are living to build kingdoms equally as fruitless.
I’ve traveled around the world, met a myriad of people, and experienced some of the best educational environments available and I have yet to find a worldview that offers answers to the central questions of life the way the Gospel does. As I pray for my enemies, the Holy Spirit fills me with compassion for those who are navigating this life as best as they can, apart from Christ, and compels me to share with them the Good News of Jesus. It’s truly the best gift we can offer to our friends and our enemies.
Apart from my enemies, I’m praying for you as well. I’m praying that in the midst of feeling attacked by your peers, slandered by your coworkers, or rebelled against by your children that you would hear the voice of the Holy Spirit inviting you to pray for your enemies.
For more insights on this topic, check out these resources:
Read “3 Ways to Pray for Our Enemies” from The Gospel Coalition
Listen to “Loving Your Enemies” by Timothy J. Keller
Read “A Prayer for Loving Difficult People — Even Our Enemies” from The Gospel Coalition
Watch “Love Your Enemies” from Desiring God
Read “What it Actually Means to Love Your Enemies” by Thomas Christianson
Authored by NCC Assistant Pastor Jōn Whiteway| northcentral.org