Luke and I were coming back from church one day, when he asked if a certain friend of his would go to heaven because he had lied. You see, several days prior to this, this friend had done something wrong at school and was getting in trouble for it. Trying to save his own skin, he lied and said that Luke was the culprit. Naturally, Luke was hurt that his friend would lie and try to get him in trouble. But even more troubling to him was the thought that this friend may not go to heaven.
Obviously, I didn’t dive into a deep theological discussion with my 7-year-old child, but I answered him as best as I could and encouraged him to pray for his friend. I told him he could never pray too much for this other boy and that it pleases God when we pray for others. So that night before bed, he prayed for his friend. He asked God to please forgive the little boy and to help him so that he would go to heaven one day.
Now I know that on the surface, this seems like nothing more than a sweet prayer of a child, but it was the deeper motives behind this prayer that moved me. Here was a child who had been hurt by someone he cared about, but it wasn’t the offense that bothered him; it was the heart and eternal dwelling of his friend that concerned him most. He looked past the transgression and viewed the transgressor through the lens of compassion and love. This was not only a proud momma moment, but it was also humbling and convicting.
I can honestly say that I have prayed for my “enemies,” but it has not always been from a heart of compassion for that other person. I have prayed from my pain, thinking more of my wounded heart or the insult than of the spiritual condition of the person that hurt me. I sometimes forget that they are broken, imperfect people…just like me. And knowing this, I should much more readily and generously hand out grace and mercy to them and love them despite the way they have treated me.
This goes beyond just simply trying to forgive someone who has hurt us. It’s removing our gaze from the offense and trying to see that person the way Jesus sees them. It’s embracing the concept that love really does cover a multitude of sins and loving that person anyway, despite their wrongdoing. It’s praying from a sincere desire that the offending person would find healing and freedom through Christ and not just so they would change for our own sake. It’s letting compassion and mercy dictate our attitude towards our “enemies” and loving them without a thought as to what it might cost us. It’s granting them grace and forgiveness because grace and forgiveness were granted us all through the Cross.
“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.” ~Luke 6:27-28
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8