2nd Tuesday after Pentecost

Psalm 11, Deuteronomy 32:35, Ezekiel 18:30–32, Matthew 5:43–48

If you’ve been on social media any amount of time, you might notice that the longer you’re on it, the less you see from those who think differently. Another way to think of it is that the more you interact (click, “like”, just stare at) with a post that makes you angry or feel persecuted, the more posts of exactly that kind you will see. This is the reality of social media that was visibly part of the 2016 presidential campaign and was part of both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, but we were all just ignorant.

This is incredibly important to understand and needs to be used to intellectually and emotionally filter any social media or traditional media interaction you have. Why? Because others are also experiencing their own confirmation bias, and it might be in tension with yours. The most disturbing part of social media is how it is reinforcing some of the basest human tendency…finding an enemy.

There is no question that we are in a divided nation and an increasingly divided world. The lines are coming more rigid, and the walls between seem to be growing larger. It would be nice to be able to blame social media and the internet. Except that we are the problem.

In both Psalm 11 and Deuteronomy 32:35, God makes it clear that it is God’s place to punish “the enemy,” yet we often try to take the place of God. God leaves people to their own demise, but we seem to want to hurry them along, often in an attempt to make ourselves feel/look better.
Ezekiel tells us that God wants repentance and reconciliation. When God leaves us to our own devices (or the result of our actions) it’s not that God wants that result for us. God never desires our physical or spiritual death. Yet, we often are not the first to aid others, retaining our “us versus them” heart.

Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies. Enemies, though, is a very emotionally laden word. A better understanding would be those who are in opposition to us. The opposition could be political, differing faiths, differing denominations, differing ideas of whose grass is greener or has more weeds and crabgrass. Persecution definitely is in regards to beliefs, but, still, we are called to pray for them.

1) Prayer changes people. Have you ever had the experience of praying for a person who “opposed” or “persecuted” you and had your heart changed rather than theirs? Do you think that is normal, or abnormal? Why?

2) In the context of Jesus’ words and the first question, why does Jesus direct us to pray for opposers and persecutors?

3) Which opposer or persecutor will you commit to pray for?