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‘The Bait of Satan’

By AL EARLEY

Religion Columnist

Jesus consistently challenges us to be holy in our actions, and then he challenges us at a deeper level to be holy in our thoughts.  The hardest of these holy thought challenges is found in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”  People like that Jesus said this.  It makes us feel good about our faith.  However, we may be tempted to believe that since Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors, and we follow Jesus, then we must be loving and prayerful toward enemies and persecutors. 

Who is someone you think of as a persecutor or enemy?  When was the last time you said a real prayer for that person?  When was the last time you showed a real loving act for that person?  Do you even have any enemies and persecutors?  Hopefully, you were honest with yourself and began to realize you rarely, if ever,  pray for your persecutors and enemies. 

If you don’t think you have any persecutors or enemies, then you are completely blind.  The reason I am absolutely sure this is correct is because teaching us to love enemies and pray for persecutors is one of God’s highest priorities in our lives.  Therefore, there is only one way to teach us this kind of love.  He has to send us enemies and persecutors. 

If you think I am being pretty hard on you, I am, because I have tried to be pretty hard on myself.  Someone once recommended I read “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere.  I thought I didn’t need to read it, because the few enemies I had were already forgiven, but my congregation definitely needed to do a study on forgiveness of enemies — so I read it anyway. 

I have rarely been more wrong, about anything, than my need to forgive people of past offenses, grudges and attacks.  I had just written them all off as stupid and gone on my merry way, believing I was very loving and prayerful when it came to enemies. 

I shared this with our congregation, and we agreed we all needed to study the book.  So, I read the book a second time, to prepare the studies that would go along with the sermon series and small group gatherings, fully satisfied that I would not have anymore people I would need to love and forgive in the enemy category.  Wrong again.  I couldn’t believe how I had deceived myself into thinking how loving and prayerful I was toward enemies, as God took every chance to expose me to my blindness.  It was very humbling. 

When I picked the book up for the third time to prepare for my sermons, I knew I had cleansed my life of enemies and persecutors that were not forgiven.  Wrong again.  It was the third time through that God revealed my greatest deceptions, the people and groups that I had hated the most, and blinded myself to my hatred.  Not only did God expose my blindness, but He then directed my steps right into the middle of these people and groups I loathed.  I would ask friends to pray when I went to meetings that I wouldn’t be a jerk, keep my mouth shut and learn to love them. 

It took about a year, but finally God broke my heart of stone.  Over the months that I had been able to refrain from being a jerk, people started to trust me, and asked me if I would share a devotional to start meetings.  I saw this as God clearly opening a door, as I had submitted myself to him, and begun to trust him to teach me to love and be prayerful of those I didn’t care for.  I poured myself into those devotions, and the people in the group began to trust me even more. 

One meeting two of the leaders of the group had experienced terrible personal events, and I was drawn to pray for them at the conclusion of my devotional.  Tears began to flow, the Holy Spirit gave me the perfect words of healing to lift up, and I felt my heart of stone completely break.  I had learned how to love my enemies and pray for my persecutors.  I was humbled by the experience. 

If you have the courage, I invite you to read The “Bait of Satan.”  It will get your new year off to a great start, and probably change your journey of faith in ways you cannot imagine.  Happy New Year.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, lagrangepres.com.