“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”(Luke 6:27-31)
Early America presented unique challenges that we rarely face today. For one, during the Revolutionary War, those loyal to America’s independence had to be wary of loyalists and English traitors living among them. For this reason, the punishment for treason was usually death.
In the town of Ephrata, Pennsylvania, lived a minister, Peter Miller, who was close friends with George Washington. Miller did all he could to promote patriotism and helped organize men for Washington’s armies. In the same town lived an evil, critical cynic named Michael Wittman who was bent on opposing everything Miller did. Wittman let it be known that he did not like Miller or his church and openly mocked the work being done there.
One day, Wittman was arrested on suspicion of treason and through trial it was proven the cynical man had been secretly working to send information to the British troops. Convicted, Wittman faced death. Hearing of Wittman’s fate, Peter Miller couldn’t help but feel compassion on him. Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead George Washington for Wittman’s life.
After Miller pled his case, George Washington replied, “I’m sorry, Peter. I know we’re friends but we consider treason a serious matter. I cannot release this man simply because he is your friend.” “Friend?” exclaimed Miller. “Why, this man is my most bitter enemy.” Shocked, Washington replied, “You’ve walked seventy miles to plead for the life of your enemy? This puts things in a very different light. Because of that, I’ll grant his release.” Michael Wittman was released, and he and Peter Miller returned to Ephrata as friends.
How would you have treated Wittman were you in the situation? Would you have thanked God that your enemy was gone, that the thorn in your flesh had been relieved? Too often we view critics or enemies as simply pains in our lives without realizing they, like us, are simply lost souls for whom Christ gave His life.
Time and again in the Scriptures, God reminds us to love our enemies, to care for those who mistreat us, and to show kindness to those who belittle us. We are told to reject the world’s commands to seek revenge and treat others as we want to be treated by them.
Consider that thought. How do you want your enemies to treat you? Wouldn’t it be nice if they forgot their hatred and treated you as a friend? God commands you to take that image of how you wish to be treated and show it to those who hate you. Treat them how you wish they’d treat you.
More often than not, people lash out in anger and unkindness because they are hurting. Reject the thoughts of revenge and evil, and treat your enemies as lost souls in need of hope. As God says, “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.”
Who should you be praying for today? What enemies need your prayerful support? Ask God to keep you humble and kind despite the hateful actions of others.(Dr. Paul Chappell)