With the news out of the Middle East, and the horrific killing of the Jordanian soldier, a number of responses come to mind: some may advocate for more aggressive measures; others might feel powerless in the face of such brutality.
Perhaps some of the hardest teachings of the Bible have to do with our enemies. In Romans 12, Paul challenges us not to return evil for evil, but instead overcome evil with good. He points to Proverbs 25.21, and says that we should feed our hungry enemy; we should give our thirsty opponent something to drink.
But it’s not just Paul that challenges us to do the impossible; Jesus does, too. In Luke 6, Jesus urges us to love our enemies, to bless them, to turn the other cheek. Jesus asks: Do you love your friends? Big deal. Everyone knows how to do that. But it is the children of God who love those who only scatter hate in response.
There are plenty of other verses in the Bible that I like better: ones about peace and joy and contentment. But the challenge Jesus and Paul give us is to live differently than the world — a world where hate is met with hate, evil with evil, death with death. We are people who show love to those who least seem to deserve it.
Impossible? Sure feels like it. In fact, the way through to love for our enemies is not through our feelings, our desires, our instincts. Love for enemies comes when we recognize that we have been loved by God — deeply loved by Him. In fact, God doesn’t tell us to do something He hasn’t first done — He is kind to the ungrateful and selfish.
And I am glad He is — for both of those words describe me.
And when I know the love of God — when it takes up residence in my selfish heart, it overflows to others — my friends, sure. But also my enemies.
But how? Can I suggest two very different ways you can do that?
One: think about the person in your life who you have the most difficult time dealing with. Maybe it’s an ex, or a guy at work, or a former “friend” who stabbed you in the back. What would it look like if, instead of nursing all the ways that person brought hurt, you instead saw it as an opportunity to let God’s love flow through you, toward them? What would it look like if you owned the hurt that person has caused you — and chose to love them anyway? Well, it wouldn’t necessarily be based on how you feel, or what you want — but what you choose. For that is what love does — it doesn’t act first on feelings, but beliefs.
Or how about this one I found in a book I just finished reading by Philip Yancey: What Good is God? Very good book — as is everything Yancey writes. Near the beginning of the book, Yancey describes the variety of people that he meets on his book tours. And one time, he describes meeting a soldier who takes Jesus’ admonition to “love your enemies” so seriously that he has set up a website where Christians can sign up to pray for a terrorist. Really. What a concept.
At the end of the day, only one thing will change the world. Not hate. Or violence. Or eye-for-an-eye. But love. The love of God, transforming His people, who then show that love to those who seem least to deserve it.
Thank God He started by showing that love to me.