These words of Jesus are some of the toughest in scripture to live out in our daily walk. For many of us, the challenge is not in knowing what the scripture says, it is knowing how to do what the scripture says. Here are some things to consider that will help you apply this verse to your life.
· Understand that loving our enemies goes against our nature as humans. Therefore, in order to live out this command, I need to walk in the strength of God’s Spirit. When we try to love those who are difficult to love by our own power, we will fail. We must pray to God that He gives us the power to do something for our enemies, even when we have the ability to do something to our enemies.
· Set realistic expectations of others. It has been said that disappointment is the gap between our expectations and our reality. When we expect people of the world to behave as Christians, we are destined to be disappointed. Darkness cannot produce light. Christians have been called to be the light source that shines in a dark world. It is also important to know that not all Christians have grown to the point where they are consistent in their walk. While we should expect more out of our brothers and sisters in Christ than we do of people in the world, don’t expect perfection.
· Do not underestimate the power of prayer. Matthew 5:44 ends with the instruction to pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. How often do you pray for those who treat you in a less than ideal way? Often there is bitterness and an unforgiving spirit at the root of their treatment of others. Many times, how people treat you really has nothing to do with you. It has to do with an internal struggle that manifests itself in their external relationships.
· Embrace forgiveness. Sometimes our enemy is our enemy because we haven’t forgiven. Are you hanging on to some hurts from the past? It is only after you forgive that you can begin to heal. If you are the one who hurt or offended someone else, embrace their forgiveness. If they have expressed that they forgive you, don’t live like they hate you. At times we read too much into things because we assume that people will treat us how we would treat someone else. Since we have a hard time forgiving, we assume others do too. Learn to accept forgiveness and walk like you are forgiven.