Monday, June 25, 2007

Love your enemies

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you, that that you may be children of your Father in heaven. ... If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even (the lowest sinners you can imagine) doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even (members of false religions) do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Jesus, Sermon on the Mount)

In the West, I believe we have forgotten what it means to pray for those who persecute us, to bless those who curse us, to love those who hate us. We have trouble loving our enemies -- even minor enemies such as people with different Christian theologies but who intend no harm, or moderate enemies who intend to degrade and harass but not to kill.

I think I have maxed out hearing the current public debate about Islam. The main approaches I hear in this debate are either denying the prevalence of hatred and violence and the legitimate cause for concern, or fomenting reciprocal hatred and fear; either relying on wishful thinking about the nature and scope of the problem or despairing of any peaceful solutions.

Jesus originally spoke the words of the Sermon on the Mount to those in occupied territory, conquered and oppressed by the Romans. Within a few centuries those conquerors were a memory, and Jesus' teachings had changed the face of the world. To the extent that we argue about his teachings rather than live them, we have a form of godliness but deny its power. Because the power is not in the page. The power is in someone who becomes Jesus' living word to the world, who dares to be kind to those who hate.


LoieJ said...

The command to pray for my enemies made an impression on me when I was 6 or 7 years old. At that time, I thought, who are my enemies? I could only think of the USSR, so I prayed for the USSR and its leaders.

In recent years, I've tried to remember to pray for the leaders around the world, that they would seek a higher wisdom, God's wisdom, in settling disputes, and not look to short term, selfish gains. This includes our own leaders.

I've also tried to remember to pray for the low ranking soldiers of all conflicts who are probably there, not because of ideology, but because of being either forced to be there or brainwashed. I pray for their families.

BK said...

I think that I recently saw something in CT Direct that asked a similar question to what you are driving at: when was the last time you prayed for Al Quaida? My answer: not recently . . . if ever. I need to be more faithful to the teachings of Jesus . . . .

Michael said...

Thanks for the beautiful reminder. Our enemies are not of this world, so we should love those hurt are trying to hurt. Sometimes that seems impractical, but it's our goal. Our enemies are from the dark world, and that battle isn't even ours. I's the Lord's and He's already won.

Susannah said...

Wow, what a powerful photo. I appreciate your admonishment. So often we forget that our enemies are lost people. Michael (above) is right. Our true enemy is not of this world. Blessings, e-Mom