But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Matthew 5:44 (CEV)

A big word in the marketing world today is branding. In simplified terms, branding is what identifies your company, product or group. It’s more than a logo or catchy phrase. Branding entails every aspect of your business from advertising and delivery of quality goods to maintenance and customer retention. In a sense you are your brand. When people see you, they think of your product and whether they like it or not.

For the Christ-follower, our brand is love. Not just love in a passionate sense. Not love for those who share common interests or theology. Not love based on the actions of those around us. On the contrary, Christ-centered love is a love for all of mankind regardless of their actions, their beliefs or their life circumstance (race, religious creed, lifestyle choices).

The Bible teaches that there are no limits to God’s love for us and, as a result, there should be no limits to our love for one other. This is a hard saying. It’s easy to love the ex-spouse when they work as a team to parent your children. It’s hard to love an ex-spouse who has left gaping wounds in your soul from physical or emotional abuse.

It’s easy to love an employer that takes risks to keep the company afloat by protecting your job; it’s hard to love an employer that makes cuts to keep the company alive by cutting you, and giving himself/herself a raise.

It’s easy to love people like Mother Theresa and others who have given or are giving their lives to make the lives of others better. It’s hard to love someone who fills mass graves with innocent women and children in the name of ethnic or political cleansing.

Hard as it is to love those who mistreat us, Jesus’ teaching goes a step further! Not only are we to love those who mistreat us, we are to pray for them. It’s easy to say, “I love my enemies” to those around us. But when we come to prayer, when we come before the one who sees our hearts, who knows our thoughts, who was there when the abuse occurred and allowed it to happen, our thoughts expose the nakedness of our empty words. You can say you love your enemies, but you can’t pray for them unless your love is genuine.

One of the keys to praying for those who abuse you is to realize that loving someone doesn’t mean you condone their actions. Loving someone does not mean you trust someone. Loving someone does not mean you continue to put yourself in danger in the name of love.

Love for the abuser can’t come naturally; it must be empowered by supernatural means. Only by the Holy Spirit can we truly love and pray for those who have abused, or continue to abuse us or those we love. It comes from a realization that although they do hateful things, they, like us, are God’s creation, his masterpiece, and like it or not, God is not willing for any to perish but for all to experience the repentance and forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ.

God listens to our prayers as he examines our heart. He honors the honest prayers that admit our inability to pray the words we need to pray. He brings people into our lives who may be able to pray on our behalf for our abuser.

It’s a difficult command, but loving and praying for our enemies is not an option for the Christ-follower.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I confess to you that this passage of scripture is one the most difficult ones I wrestle with on a daily basis. There are people in my life who have hurt me, misunderstood me, lied about me and abused me. My soul is still bruised by their onslaught. But because I love you, and you love them, I’m committed to love them and pray for them. Empower me with your spirit to know that that looks like for my life, and pursue it in your name. Amen.