“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice”
Let’s all be honest with ourselves, when those who hurt us fail, the flesh gets a bit of a thrill out of it. However, as heaven-ready saints, we are not of the flesh, but of the Spirit (see Romans 8:9). We’ve been made new on the inside, so this old way of thinking must be put in place from time to time. We should pray for our enemies, not be excited about their misfortune.
The great news is, the only way to do this is to be yourself–to walk by the Spirit! You don’t have to keep “crucifying your flesh.” Honestly, that only happened once, and it happened to Jesus not you. Sure, your spirit was crucified, but that only happened one time as well, then you came back to life in Christ! (See Romans 6:6-7, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Your flesh has never been crucified, and it doesn’t need to be. There’s nothing wrong with your flesh, it’s just a tool for your spirit. It is a temporary vessel for you to be able to walk around on planet earth. If you crucified your flesh, you would literally die, so we need to stop saying that. Be easy on your body, it’s not your enemy. It is good! (See Genesis 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:19).
You don’t have to constantly be at battle with the flesh either, but instead, walk by your true nature. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to tame the flesh. The flesh–not our flesh–isn’t our physical body but the power of sin coming to life through us and others. It can’t be tamed and it doesn’t need to be tamed. So rather than try your hardest to do so, just be the real you, then you’ll do as you please (see Galatians 5:17).
Even better, when you are being who you truly are as God’s own child, you won’t have to look to any of the Jewish laws or commands for structure and guidance. Instead, God’s desires are now written into your supernatural DNA, so you know what to do and what not to do, organically, from the heart. His holy character is now built into your natural reflexes and instincts! (See Hebrews 10:16, Galatians 5:22-23).
As a result of this, you will naturally put the desires of the flesh to the side. Paul explains how this works to the Christians in Galatia:
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” (Galatians 5:16-18)
Two things to point out:
Friend, by being who you are in spirit, you will be able to pray for your enemies simply and easily even in the midst of being hurt by them. This mindset is based on knowing that your enemies are loved by God too, and choosing to pray for them–not feeling like it–but choosing.
As an act of your will, you will ask God to bless your enemies and you’ll mean it. The Spirit of Jesus will strengthen you to be able to pull this off without effort (see Philippians 4:13).
Understanding who we are modifies our thought processes toward others because we begin to realize their importance to our Creator as well. God made them too. Jesus died for them too. In turn, we can pray for them genuinely.
For years, I would have quoted the following verse for such a topic as this. But as I learned more about the New Covenant, I soon found out that I’d be taking it out of context. Jesus said:
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
The heart behind this verse might be true in regard to what we should do as Christians. However, this verse in context does not apply to us as believers. Why would I say that? Because most of Matthew 5–from verse 17 and on–was written to the legalistic Jews who thought their wonderful behavior was earning them righteousness with God.
This verse was one of the nails in the coffin of Mosaic legalism in which Jesus used to rightfully bury the Pharisaical hypocrites. He was speaking to his critics in the crowd, not comforting those who actually believed in Him as Messiah.
For proof of this, all you have to do is look at the chapter as a whole and then read the end of it. Jesus said, “Be perfect like God is perfect” (see Matthew 5:48). From verse 17 on, the Sermon on the Mount is a death sentence. Even for today, it’s meant to cause those who follow Mosaic Law to say, “Well, crap. I’m a complete failure.”
It’s meant to funnel the legalist toward grace. It’s meant to teach: we must be born again in spirit in order to receive supernatural perfection–following rules can’t do this! Only by believing in Jesus’ complete forgiveness does this happen.
However, if we are going to cherry-pick Scripture to make an honest point, I think cherry-picking this particular verse for this particular subject is fine. The heart of God is to love His enemies! The heart of God is to pray for those who persecute Him! Jesus did both at the Cross, and He now lives in us!
So today, my friends, know this: Yes, praying for your enemies is very hard–in the flesh! But we walk by the Spirit! We can do all things through the Spirit of Christ who strengthens us! Keep doing it! Keep blessing others! Keep praying! Keep being yourself! God is paying close attention to everything! It could be your prayers that change the lives of even your enemies! Keep showing them the goodness of God!
A prayer for you: Good morning, Dad. I just want to thank you for being such a good Father to me. You’re so patient and kind, and you always pick me up when I fail. I love you so much, and I’m glad to be your son. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of them have been hurt by others, some are still BEING hurt by others–please, help them. First, help them to learn WHO they are as a heaven-ready person. Once they understand this, they’ll begin to understand how they should truly act and live. Afterwards, teach them how to establish healthy boundaries in order to protect themselves. Begin to renew their minds into learning how to handle their feelings. Teach them that their feelings don’t dictate their identity, and neither do their feelings dictate whether or not they should pray for their enemies. We CHOOSE to forgive others, we CHOOSE to pray for them. These are acts of our will NOT our feelings! Help us to bless those who cause us harm and to pray for them. But also help us to remember our infinite value to you. Give us balance in all things! In Christ’s name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 3. Get your copy here!