November 22, 2016
Real Thanksgiving Includes Our Enemies
Post by Brittany Tedesco
Every week, I get together with a friend to share a meal, open the Word, and pray. I'm ashamed to say, however, that too often we descend into petty criticism of others during our mealtime.
This practice is completely incompatible with gratitude. How are we, in one breath, to thank God for His goodness toward us—and, in another breath, criticize the very people He's brought into our lives?
It sure is easy to do. But we can't have genuinely grateful hearts to the Lord while harboring ill will toward people who are, or whom we perceive to be, our enemies.
Jesus Christ provided us with a remedy against this type of hypocrisy. He told us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). He also told us to bless them.
Is there someone who treats you poorly? Acts nasty toward you? Is out to get you?
Does the thought of praying blessings over them seem distasteful to you? It does me. I'd much rather rant about them between bites of salad with a close girlfriend.
Once again, there's nothing like a few reports from native missionaries overseas to provide me with a little perspective.
One of the ministries that Christian Aid Mission assists in Myanmar sent a report containing the account of a couple who is working with them to plant churches. Formerly Buddhist, this couple heard the gospel and accepted Christ while in Thailand, where they continued to live for several years to save up enough money to buy a piece of property for a church in their Myanmar village.
They sent the money to their relatives with instructions to purchase a plot of land. However, when they returned to Myanmar, their relatives refused to give them the property, relegating them to a tiny corner of the land, where the couple lives in a temporary dwelling. Their family told them they were not to receive Christian visitors or host church meetings in their house.
"When their relatives saw us visiting them in their house, they rebuked them and threatened to kick them out," wrote the ministry leader. "Sometimes they hung up a poster saying, 'This house is for sale.' So we withdrew ourselves from visiting at their house. The eyes of all the villagers are upon them, accusing them often in so many unnecessary ways."
The leader wrote that the couple intends to stay at their house, praying that God will provide another piece of land for a church.
Another report from the Philippines tells of former Muslims who have accepted Christ as Savior. They cannot meet together because of the attention it would draw from hostile Muslims who burned their church building, so they go as individual families to the house of their pastor, who will preach the same message to each family who visits throughout the day.
In both of these cases, Christians neither strike back nor flee. They remain where they are, continuing on as usual, while praying for their enemies—for changed hearts and a breakthrough from the Lord.
Why is it so much easier for me to rant against my enemies than to pray that their hearts will be changed? Three words: lack of faith. When I think about certain people, I get a fatalistic attitude. I can't even imagine their hearts could be changed. Subconsciously, I believe it's too big of a job for God. . .even though He's in the business of changing people's hearts (see previous post).
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was accused by critics of being too nice to the Southern rebels. After all, they were the enemies. . .and Lincoln was supposed to destroy the enemy. His answer: "I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends."
Allow me to share one more report, from a ministry leader in India.
This ministry leader met a man who worked in the film industry for Fox movies in Mumbai, and he led him to Christ. The man went from house to house—and even mosque to mosque—sharing the gospel. He placed Bibles and the Jesus film in 800 mosques! In the last 10 years, this actor-turned-evangelist has brought 900 people to the Lord and trained over 40 leaders serving in their respective villages and towns.
When the evangelist met a man who was ill with large hospital bills, he prayed for him and the man received healing. "The whole clan believed on Jesus, and meets every Friday to worship Him," the report states. "Since the whole clan has received Jesus, there is not much persecution from the community."
Interesting. Enemies turned friends.
There's a reason the Lord instructed us to pray for those who "spitefully use you" and to "bless those who curse you" and "do good to those who hate you."
It's not just for their good. It's for our good.
Not only does it hold the power to change circumstances, it fosters an authenticity in our Christian walks.
"Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so," James 3:10 NKJV.
Genuine thanksgiving to God starts with understanding His grace toward us, when we were His enemies—and then extending that grace to our enemies.
More blessing, less cursing.
More gratitude, less hypocrisy.