Praying for the Enemy

This was something on my old blog that I thought I would repost here, as it is very fitting.

Those who know me personally know that September 11 is a personal day for me, and those who have followed my blog for a while know why. On September 11, 2001, I was in high school and watched on TV as the twin towers went down and saw the Pentagon aflame. My father worked at the Pentagon at the time. Needless to say, it was the scariest moment in my life.

By the grace of God I found out later my father was still alive, but the day still remains personal for me because of my experiences. I think they reflected how many felt that day. We were attacked, and watched in horror as commercial and military structures were destroyed or damaged by something we apparently couldn’t stop. On top of this, it was a faceless enemy. We didn’t know at that time who had attacked us. We only knew that they were evil men. We only knew that we were under attack from evil.

Now we have a face for this evil, and we have seen them commit more evil deeds. I made the unfortunate mistake some years ago of finding the Nick Berg beheading video and watching it. For the rest of that day I could not engage another human being in normal conversation – so great was my horror at what a man was capable of doing to another man. So great was my horror at watching Cain slay Abel.

Some years I entered an interesting conversation with a woman at an old church. The topic of the beheadings and terrorist attacks had come up, and she was pondering aloud to me if it was still necessary to pray for these men. They seemed so full of evil and so remorseless for their deeds that they seemed beyond salvation. It seemed that there was no hope for them to turn their ways, and everything they did and believed in was drenched in wickedness. The question ultimately boiled down to not only should – but could – we pray them? Could we find it in our hearts?

I answer emphatically: yes.

There is always a constant temptation in our life, and such evil men are nothing more than tools for our own temptation. Yes, these men had their own temptation, and they have succumbed to it wholesale, yet just as good works can result in further good works, so can evil deeds result in more evil deeds – this is why Paul warns regarding fasting: “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Cor 8:13). What better way to sow wickedness than to plant and nurture wickedness? Dandelions are reliant on letting the wind carry its seeds across the grass to spread the flower population; so too is sin reliant on the wind of temptation to spread demonic influence.

There is no doubt that part of the goal in the devil’s creation of worse and worse men in our midst is to tempt the righteous into causing sin themselves, for a righteous man who falls to pride will err like the Pharisee and not become justified as the Publican. We will hate these men for who they are, and we will hate them even more for what we do. We will despise them. We will wish them dead. We will cheer at their death. We will glorify it when their people suffer. All because we believe we are righteous.

There is, however, no righteousness in pride, and no love in hate.

What these men do is wrong, but we must remember evil did not originate with them: it originated in the fall of mankind, and that fall is what begets the disease of the mind known as sin. These men do their deeds because of who we are, not who they are. They sin because it is human nature to sin, and we are all sinners and guilty before God (Rom 3:10). The sum of all sins are equal, and there is truly no such thing as “minor” or “major” sins, for all sins separate us from God. He who violates one commandment violates them all (Jam 2:10). This is why God loves all men equally: because all men are equally as guilty. God loves the righteous and the wicked – the only difference between the two is that the righteous man loves God back. Through extension, the righteous love the wicked as well.

Should we pray for these men? Yes, because they more than any one need our prayers. Can we? That depends on our love for God.

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