Tonight found me browsing through parts of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, and I came across these few verses which really leapt out to me:
You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
It wasn't so much the first part that shook me awake as the line: If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?...I started realizing how directly this hits home. With these few simple verses, I am indicted for living out the part-time gospel. The part-time gospel of loving and encouraging those who are easy to encourage, but shying away from the hard-to-relate-to people. It's exactly what I'm guilty of. These verses plucked the right string in my heart, and really sent encouragement to a new place inside of me, helping me realize that we can't sell the gospel short. It's too rich and too deep to be dealt with in such a manner.
Loving your enemies is hard. Praying for people you severely dislike is hard. But with the strength of the Lord, it is possible. Thank goodness I don't have to rely on my shallow resources of strength, but that I can draw from the deep well of strength available in Christ.