Reading Acts 8 and 9 made me think of a scary scenario. Imagine you heard that a band of religious zealots was going door-to-door in your neighborhood, dragging people out of their homes and killing them because they were Christians. You were also told they were taking large stones and crushing the skulls of entire families against the hard pavement of the street and leaving piles of dead bodies behind as a grotesque warning.
What would you do? Before you too quickly assume a hyper-spiritual stance, creating a response to the threat void of reality, stop and think about it for a moment. I have been in situations where acts of terror were taking place all around me in real-time, and it’s not a pleasant experience. Your spiritual mettle is tested in those experiences. If I knew a band of crazies was working their way down my street and I had no way to escape, I would greet the intruders at the door with my 12 gauge and print clusters of 00 buck in the center of mass when the threat crossed the threshold of our home.
As I prepared to protect my family, I would also be doing something else. I would be praying. “Lord, encounter these people and reveal yourself to them before they get to our home” would be one of my prayers as I waited, prepared for their arrival. I would pray for a Damascus Road experience or a diversion so they would not encounter the fury of my response. Anyone who loves their family will protect them at all costs. Protection is part of love, and it is not always a pleasant thing to watch. It is our responsibility to pray for our enemies before the consequence of their foolish and threatening manner catches up with them.
The decisions we make have consequences. Saul, who later became the apostle Paul, did things before he met Jesus that were painful reminders of what his life was like before he had an encounter with the Lord. We need to pray for our enemies so they can meet Jesus before they experience the consequence of their actions. While we live prepared in a crazy and unstable world, preparation is not all we do. We are called to pray for people who want to harm us, hoping that before they arrive and experience the reality of our preparation, they will see the error of their ways. The principle of praying for our enemies applies not only to our families. It also applies to cities or nations who are being threatened by evil.