Jesus said to pray for our enemies. And I’d like to be obedient. But my problem is fairly straightforward: I don’t think I have any enemies.
I guess it all depends on how you define enemy.
Being the list-maker I am, I decided to make a list. Not of my enemies, per se, but of the people I don’t enjoy being around — the ones I avoid, who have hurt me in some way.
The list surprised me.
Every name came from one place: Church.
Really? I scanned the list again.
Not a neighbor.
Not a co-worker.
Not a parent from my kids’ schools.
Not a parent from my kids’ AYSO soccer teams.
Not a parent from my son’s Boy Scouts pack.
Nope. The people who have hurt me the most were from the one place that is supposed to be a safe haven. Church.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure what to do with this.
Discouragement seeped into my soul as the real enemy echoed: Why bother going to church at all? The people there are hurtful.
I stared at the list some more, feeling a bit befuddled, until I remembered why I made the list in the first place. To pray.
Then something changed. Verses came to mind, which gave me a new perspective.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world . . .”
~ Ephesians 6:12
The enemy is not sitting in a pew four rows over.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock
I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
~ Matthew 16:18
Wasn’t Peter the impulsive one? The one who often spoke before he thought? The one whose words seared deep into the heart of the Messiah?
Yet, those very words, of lies and betrayal, are why Christ died. And Jesus still picked Peter — broken Peter — to lead His church.
Plenty of people enjoy bashing the church for any number of reasons. I’m not one of them.
I believe the Church — the global community of believers — is God’s chosen vessel. But we’re a broken vessel. Which is precisely the point. On our own, we can’t effect positive change. Not in ourselves. Not in others. We need Christ. All of us. Which is why I continue to attend weekly church services. Not because it’s this awesome lovey-dovey community. No, we’re real people with real hurts. And we’re all at very different places in our own spiritual journey.
We need to extend grace to those in the church who may not be at a place, spiritually speaking, that we would like them to be at. We also need to remember where we once were ourselves. Maybe even still are.
Have you prayed for your church lately?
After making this prayer list, I purposed to make another one. A list of the people I’ve known in Church who have blessed me in amazing ways. That is what led to my Hidden Heroes Series.