“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"
Matthew 5:43-47 (NIV)
Three times in the past two weeks, I have heard church leaders either request or utter prayers for the safety of Christians in Egypt. This is a prayer I understand: some congregations support missionaries who are serving in Egypt; some have family or friends who live in Egypt. The political unrest (and now violence) has left Egypt as an unstable and, in many ways, unsafe place to be.
What strikes me about the prayers I've heard, though, is that it is for Christians. What about the people there who are not believers? Why don't they merit our prayers?
When news of the shooting in Tucson, AZ, broke last month, my instinctive response was, "what a sad situation." But when I learned that it had happened just a few blocks from a PCA church-- and, in fact, that it was the church that a seminary classmate serves, and his daughters were in the bank adjacent to the lot where the shootings occurred-- suddenly I was motivated to pay attention and be more regular in prayer.
Why wasn't I motivated to pray before I knew this? Why does it take the proximity of someone we know to make us care about a tragedy or disaster?
I'm convicted by the passage above, from Matthew. I think when we pray for only the Christians in Egypt-- and not for those who have no eternal security-- then we are not doing anything the pagans and tax collectors would do. I think when we only care about tragic events-- and by "care" I mean something much more than morbid curiosity and tongue-clucking-- then we fail to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors.
I'm praying that the heavenly Father, who has called me His son, would cause me to be a "son of the Father" as Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5.