But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (Matthew 5:44).
Early in his career, former Ku Klux Klan (a white supremacist group) leader Johnny Lee Clary met African-American Reverend Wade Watts at a radio station debate. “Hello Mr. Clary,” Reverend Watts said before they went on air. “I just want you to know that I love you and Jesus loves you.”
The debate was intense, with Clary arguing why whites and blacks should be separated and Watts refuting each claim from Scripture. “Nothing you do can make me hate you,” he told Clary. “I’m going to love you and pray for you whether you like it or not!”
After the debate, the reverend’s windows were broken and effigies were torched on his lawn. The Klan burned down one of his churches and set fire to another. But Watts refused to retaliate.
Johnny Lee Clary’s life later collapsed. He cried out to God, and ultimately, he became a believer in Jesus. One day he phoned Watts to tell him the news. “How about you preach your very first time in my all-black church?” the reverend said. And so the one-time enemy spoke in the very church he had once set on fire.
Wade Watts followed Jesus’ command to love and pray for our enemies, and the results were profound. We’re called to do the same—whether to selfish neighbours, nasty colleagues, or Internet trolls—and Jesus gave us three ways to do it: pray for them (Matthew 5:44), meet their practical needs like God does (Matthew 5:45), and show them kindness (Matthew 5:47).
Wade Watts survived his enemies’ attacks. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t. Johnny Lee Clary changed. Other enemies haven’t. Jesus never said that love for our enemies will solve every problem. But He does call us to a radical love that He displayed even as He suffered and died for us.
This passage first appeared on http://www.ourdailyjourney.org/