July 31, 2019

July 31, 2019

July 31, 2019
Matthew 5:43-48
by Pam Sutherland
Co-Pastor of Wabash Circuit
New River District

Some years ago, my friends were living in a neighborhood where the houses were very close together.  The houses were rather old and did not have central air conditioning so in the summertime it was necessary to keep the windows open to catch a little breeze.  One summer, a couple moved in next door with a dog who stayed outside 24 hours a day.  At night the dog would bark incessantly.  After listening to the dog bark at every sound or movement in the night they decided to approach the new neighbors to ask if they would bring the dog inside at night.  The neighbors refused and the barking went on night after night.  My friends prayed: “Lord, please make the dog be quiet so we can get some rest.”  As the long, sleepless nights went on my friends became more and more frustrated and annoyed at the neighbors who didn’t seem to care about their lack of sleep.  My friends began to see the neighbors as enemies to be vanquished and their prayers changed to pleas for harm to come to the dog and to the neighbors!  Anything to stop the barking and restore peace to the nights.

When Jesus said to pray for our enemies, I don’t think that is what He had in mind.  When we begin to see others, who are not like us, who don’t conform to what we think they should be or do, as the “enemy”, we lose focus on who we are called to be and what we are called to do.  The simple command Jesus gave us is to “love your neighbors”.  The kind of love we are to have for others, especially those who irritate us, frustrate us, or those we consider “enemies”, is not a warm, fuzzy feeling, but an act of our will.  It is a determination to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, be patient and kind, not jealous, boastful or arrogant.  It does not act unbecomingly or seek its own will.  It is not easily provoked and does not take into account a wrong suffered. (Do you recognize the Apostle Paul’s definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13?)

When the Holy Spirit brought the passage from Matthew 5 to my friends’ attention, they recognized that their attitude was sinful and not pleasing to God. They realized that God could not bless their lives when they were disobedient to God’s command in Scripture to “love your neighbors” and “pray for your enemies”.  As a result, they began praying for their neighbors in the way Jesus intended.  They prayed for God’s provision, protection, and blessing in their neighbors’ lives. Night after night they prayed good things for the neighbors even as they listened to the dog bark.  Before long, my friend’s husband learned that he was being promoted at work and the promotion came with a hefty raise that allowed them to move away from the house next to the barking dog.

God honored my friends’ obedience to “love your neighbors” and “pray for your enemies” in a way they never imagined!  We often pray for God’s blessing in our own lives while forgetting that God cannot, and will not, bless our disobedience.   What blessings might we be missing in our lives because our thoughts, our attitudes, our words and actions, are disobedient to Jesus’ command and do not reflect God’s love for others?  Even the one’s we consider “enemies”.