Jesus tell us to love our enemies and pray for those who curse us (Matthew 5:44). I have prayed for terrorists in the past and even voiced a prayer that those who hate Christians will be exposed to the light of Jesus Christ. But one of the hardest people for me to pray for was not a terrorist or a natural enemy to the United States but a multi-millionaire third baseman for the New York Yankees baseball team.
I have never liked Alex Rodriguez, even when he played for my beloved Texas Rangers. I tried, but there just wasn’t anything about him that was appealing other than the fact that he could hit home runs in situations that made no difference to the outcome of a game. He seems incredibly self absorbed and someone who thinks all eyes are on him all the time and that people are just as obsessed with him as he is with himself. Towards the end of his tenure with the Rangers, he talked about how difficult it was for him to lead a “bunch of kids” in reference to the rest of the Texas team. He was a joke in my eyes and I wasn’t sad to see him go and thought him making it to the Yankees was rather appropriate given his inability to create a legacy of his own and that he was wimping out in order to ride the coattails of a famous organization and better winners such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
But then his play went south within a year of joining the Yankees. ARod became the butt of New York City jokes and late night talk show hosts. He was being booed nightly, not by fans in road contest, but by his own fans. They called him a “bum” and “sorry” and much worse. His family was falling apart and endless rumors were flying around about him. That was when I became convicted. I understand that sports hate is not the same as real hate and that sports enemies are not the same as real enemies but for forever I had been secure in my rationale for hating ARod and wishing him poor performance and failure. But in the midst of his lowest point as a Yankee I actually felt sorry for the guy and while I was mowing my grass, I lifted up a prayer for him and prayed that he would be better received by New York fans and that God would give him the ability to do his best in his next game. There I did it, I prayed for ARod. I felt better about myself, even like a burden had been lifted. I felt free in a sense. I guess anger and contempt really enslaves your soul and that forgiveness and genuine love breaks those barriers so we can experience love and peace.
I know this sounds silly but this incident was a sign of spiritual maturity for me. If faith is going to impact one part of my life, why can’t it impact all of it? How I thought about Alex Rodriguez and the hatred and anger I had towards him was really affecting my spiritual life and I needed to have a change of heart. Who knows, maybe I will pray for Kobe Bryant someday? Maybe.
Have you grown comfortable with your hatred of a public figure? A politician? A member of the media or Hollywood? Is it time for you to pray for your enemies?
I actually prayed for Duke during the 2010 NCAA Basketball Tourney. It was excruciating, but I heard earlier during the day at an AA meeting a man talk about the liberation he felt early in sobriety by praying that his enemies would recieve all they wanted and needed from God. He was released from all the resentment and fear he had carried over the years, and these people no longer had any power over him. Well Duke won the National Championship that year, a year after my beloved UNC Tarheels, but the outcomes of sporting events has affected my emotional and spiritual well-being less (not completely) since then. It’s a process, not an event…
You prayed for Duke? Miracles do happen. Thanks for the comment. We can get some of the most rewarding discoveries through some of the most simple, even silly, practices.