Sermon Illustrations

“A Supernatural Event!” Matthew 5:43-48 Key verse(s): 44:“‘But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’”

Pray for them who hate you! We know that this is what Jesus taught. And there are examples from Scripture of those who have dealt with their enemies in this manner. But these were men and women of God; close to Him, sharing in a relationship with the Father few if any of us have ever had the opportunity to do. Sure, David treated Saul with the utmost respect and set an example of love such that all of us would benefit from. However, David walked with God and He spoke with David personally. Why David even had his own prophet, Nathan, to help him do the right thing. How many of us have that?

Praying for those who hate use you might be easy if all we were praying for was for their come-uping or, better yet, their chastisement. It is easy to find the words of justice when we have vengeance on our mind. Those kind of prayers are pretty easy. But, to pray for the good of those who only wish you ill? That is a matter altogether far too difficult and foreign to easily sculpt a prayer from. Surely this is one of those “mystical” realities of Scripture that is hard to understand and even more difficult to apply.

During the dark days of autumn, 1936, the empire of Japan invaded China through Korea and into Manchuria. Thousands upon thousands of Japanese troops poured over the Chinese border nearly unopposed. They brought their tanks, bombers and a ruthless brand of extermination and torture that had been unknown in China for many centuries. Burning cities to the ground, the Japanese invaders practiced a scorched earth policy in northeastern China. While herding millions of Chinese into forced labor camps, the Japanese armies went about seizing what little industry was left in China and converting it into a massive war machine to turn out ammunition and materials to fuel their war effort across southeast Asia.

Hit particularly hard were the many tens of thousands of Chinese Christians that had been converted from their Shinto and Confucian beliefs by both Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries. The Japanese feared the Christians and went out of their way to destroy their churches and kill believers whenever they had the chance. Among the believers were the president of China, Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Madame Chiang. Both had been raised in Christian homes.

Madame Chiang’s parents were very devout Methodists. At the height of the conflict when the Japanese troops were at the walls of the capital city of Peking, Madame Chiang rushed to here mother’s room in the palace. Everyone was busily running about destroying documents, gathering belongings and preparing to abandon the city. Finding her Mother’s door closed she gently pushed it open. Through her mother’s window she could see the explosions from Japanese artillery as it began to find the range of the palace and the small guard that had been left behind to escort the Chiang family. In the darkened room she searched for her mother. Finally, as her eyes became accustomed to the dim light she saw her mother in the corner of the room, kneeling in prayer. As the bomb flashes lit up the room she could see that her mother’s face was peaceful, even content. Waiting until her mother lifted up her head, Madame Chiang rushed over to her and knelt beside her. “Mother,” she whispered. “You are so powerful in prayer. Are you praying for the defeat of our enemy? Will you ask God to crush them before our entire country is wasted? Could you pray for an earthquake to annihilate them?” The old lady smiled gravely and then gently caressed her daughter’s face. “No, my daughter. This is not my prayer. When I pray don’t expect me to insult God’s intelligence by asking Him to do something which would be unworthy of you, a mortal.” It was a lesson Madame Chiang never forgot. After that she was always able to pray for her enemies however difficult the situation became. Over the many years she and her husband spent in exile on the island of Taiwan threatened by the Communist Chinese, it was a practice that served her well. (Adapted from Macartney’s Illustrations)

Praying for our enemies is not natural. Praying for them is supernatural and only a Christian that is linked to the Spirit of God through His Word can find that kind of supernatural power. It is a very natural brand of selfishness that enables each of us to wish harm upon those who persecute us. It is a very unnatural, supernatural brand of Christ-like love that enables a Christian to bless those who curse you. Alone we are not able to understand or grasp this kind of love. We are born to despise it. Joined with Christ, we are plugged into his supernatural ability to pray for the good when only bad is our lot. It’s not easy to bless those who curse us. But, if we ever wish to be like Christ, it’s best we start trying.

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