43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Perfect? Did Jesus really say to us that we “must be perfect”? Gratefully, Jesus would not have said it if we couldn’t do it! Let’s take a look at the context here.
Jesus in the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, is telling us how to treat those around us. Although I encourage you to read all of Matthew 5, I broadly summarize it in one word, HONOR. This passage of scripture specifically reminds us to honor not only the people we think deserve it, but also those who we think don’t deserve it. Verse 44 says to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. By doing this, we can be more than normal. God’s super will come on our natural and we can be perfect “as our heavenly Father is perfect”. That is why expressing Honor is one of the core values of DLC.
From my own life experience, I know Matthew 5:43-48 to be truth and not just theory. In fact, Robin Baker and I have a story to tell about the power of prayer and what Jesus can do to unite people when we let Him work.
As many of you already know, Robin Baker is Jose’s ex-wife. She is the mother of Anthony, Benjamin, Celina and Dieya. She and her husband, Tery Baker, attend and serve DLC regularly and are a valuable part of our church family, but that was far from the case a few years back. Three years ago, we were all outside of the church, and our relationship was very different than it is now. After almost ten years of me, Jose, and Robin being ugly to each other, Robin and I had finally learned to be civil for the sake of the kids. Essentially, we were able “to get along in public” with little interaction. Not exactly Jesus’s definition of unity. Good thing God was not done with us yet.
Jose and I came to visit DLC for Easter service 2015. God moved radically in our lives, healing wounds and restoring us to our call. After only a few weeks, the kids realized they wanted their mom to come back to church too. We talked about salvation and of course their question was, “What about Mommy?” Robin had known the Lord, but she had her own pain and reservations about coming back to church, especially the same church where Jose and I were so involved.
Whoever gets up and says, “I am going to go to church with my ex and his wife?” I never woke up saying this, but it is the reality of today. It’s been a long road to get here, yet a great place to be. Our story goes way back. Jose and I share 4 wonderful children. I was not going to allow anything to stand in the way of my children’s happiness or me attending their events. I put on a smile – today I would say it was a very fake smile but I wore it. I had lost my joy.
So Jose and I prayed. I prayed for my husband’s ex-wife. The prayers started out very short but they grew. My heart began to change, and I didn’t remember all the petty little things I had kept as a reminder not to like her or trust her. All the reasons and excuses I had to label Robin as my enemy just fell away. I truly wanted her happiness and her best.
I met my husband Tery in August of 2015. Looking back, that was my true turning point. Even though I was not in church at that time I knew it was meant for me to meet him. I even canceled the first meeting and he agreed to meet again! We married in July 2016.
When Robin told Jose that she was officially dating Tery, we prayed for that relationship, and we couldn’t ask for a better husband for Robin. We prayed for her to be fully restored and completely healed, so she wouldn’t have to carry anything she wasn’t meant to. We began to see God answering our prayers for her, so we kept praying and encouraging the kids to pray and keep inviting her to church.
My children asked me multiple times for us to attend church with them. I could see changes in them as well. We went to the Christmas Eve service in December 2016 – we were served chicken and waffles! It was a day with many tears being the first Christmas without my mother, but everyone was so friendly and loving. I felt God’s love that day through everyone. I now look back on it and it was another huge turning point. I could feel God’s love for me! So I began to pray for my husband, asking the Lord to help us look past this being my ex’s church home. God spoke to me, stating that He was all that mattered, not the people. We went to a February service – I remember Pastor Manny talking something about forgiveness. It opened my eyes to give true forgiveness to Jose and Laura. Once that was done, man did things open up! Tery came to me and said that he wanted us to attend Next Step. I said, “OK,” and we attended the next Sunday. So that is where we started. Truthfully, it is all an answer to a prayer that I had prayed for a long time. The prayer that God would show my children His true love.
In less than two years, God has done a miracle in our lives and for our kids! They have four parents that love them. More than just being civil, we can actually spend time together. Even our holiday traditions as of this year have changed to include time with all of us together. We can enjoy each other’s company sincerely, and nobody else has to get it.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Pastor Raul shared this passage with us and taught us the real meaning of heaping hot coals on someone’s head. It’s not sneaky vengeance, but giving out life! People came to the center of the village to get coal from a constantly tended fire. They took that coal, carried in a pot on their heads, to their homes to cook with and provide light and warmth, keeping their individual hearths lit. By heaping hot coals on someone’s head, you are giving from what could be yours to give someone else life. Praying for your enemies does just that. Before I noticed any change in Robin, I noticed a change in me. That change made room for unity. My heart was open to her. Could she have stomped on it and made me regret it all and say to God, “See? I knew this would go badly…” Maybe, but I trusted God that if He could change my heart, then He could help Robin too. I could trust God to take care of me, Robin, and the kids. I didn’t need to understand how all the pieces would land. I just needed to keep praying. Unbeknownst to me, Robin was praying and making room for God to work in her and Tery’s life. Because we all said yes to getting out of the way and letting God work on us, my family has experienced a miracle. Without the miracle working power of Jesus, there is no family–as messy as ours was–that could ever come together as we have in such a short amount of time.
Who in your life do you need to pray for? What relationship is only a headache for you? Who do you dread bumping into? As we press for more of God, we need to let Him work miracles for us and make us perfect. His perfection will empower us to give life to others regardless of circumstances and excuses.
Father, we come to You with hearts desiring unity. We want to be at peace with the other people at DLC. We want to be unified with our church family into one body that can move and do great things for Your kingdom without petty bickering holding us back. We want to be unified as a regional, national, and global body of Christ that can change the unbelieving world. Lord remove any disclaimers we put on your ability to allow us to honestly and authentically love, honor, and pray for others. Jesus, with us this is impossible, but with you this is possible. Change our hearts first, Jesus. Change the way we see the people around us. Make room in us to be unified with others. Thank you for the miracles and restoration You will bring. In Jesus’s name, Amen.