“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Jesus speaking, in Matthew 5:43-48
Last week on Easter Sunday, 74 people were brutally murdered by a suicide bomber in Lahore, Pakistan. More than 300 more were injured. The large majority of the victims were women and children.
The terrorist organization, Tehreek Jamaatul Ahrar, a splintered group wrought out of the Taliban, claimed the attack and made it very clear that they were targeting Christian families celebrating Easter together in the park.
One of IDES' beloved mission partners in Pakistan lost a 7 year old cousin in the attack, and another young cousin was severely injured. This attack hits close to home for us at IDES.
As Jesus-followers, what should our response be?
Before we dive into the Scripture posted above, I want to quote an article that my favorite songwriter, Jon Foreman (frontman for the band Switchfoot), recently wrote for the Huffington Post in response to the Paris attacks:
"There are so many emotional responses welling up within me. I want to respond with violence. I want to run away. But pause with me for a moment — before we do anything, let’s consider: what response are our enemies hoping for? They want us to respond with fear and hatred." (I highly, highly encourage you to read the full article here: http://huff.to/1SLSN1p)
I think we can all easily agree that fear and hatred is not what our Lord calls for in response to atrocities committed against the collective "us." In fact, Jesus calls for something even more radical than terrorism itself.
He calls for love.
Read the passage from the Sermon on the Mount above once more. Did you catch the depth of all that?
Don't get me wrong--I am the worst of all sinners when it comes to perfecting this concept of forgiving love in the face of sheer remorseless violence against innocent women and children. The rage I feel against these particular enemies of ours is hard to contain; however, Jesus Christ my Shepherd leads me to respond in a way that is radically different than rage.
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."
Really, Jesus? I get that you are the Son of God and perfect in all of your ways, but I am absolutely not perfect. How do we forgive the same way that You forgive? How do we love the very people who wish to kill our brothers and sisters in the Church the same way that You love the very people who nailed you to a cross and hissed curses of victory at your death?
In his famous book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes, "Remember, we Christians think man lives for ever. Therefore, what really matters is those little marks or twists on the central, inside part of the soul which are going to turn it, in the long run, into a heavenly or a hellish creature...we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it…we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves – to wish that he were not so bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. This is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not."
That quote changed my life in regards to loving the enemies of Christ. However, this is still a hard one for me. But, quite frankly, I think Jesus meant what He said. There's no way out of or around imitating, practicing, and passionately showing this merciful love to our enemies.
We pray for the strength to love as Jesus loves. We pray that our hearts will be pricked by eternally passionate forgiveness. We pray against the temptations of fearful racism and minority-generalizing. We pray that deep within us, God may set up a pillar of truth in knowing all life is precious--that even lives lost to the powers of darkness are precious and valuable.
Our friend and partner in Pakistan wrote to us, asking us to pray for the following things:
"- Pray for physical and emotional healing of the injured and the families of the victims.
- Pray for freedom from the fear that has gripped the Christian community in Pakistan.
- Pray for Pakistan and its leadership, that God would give them wisdom and direction.
- Pray for financial support to the victims' families."
Today, we are adding one more request to that prayer list. Let's also pray for the very enemies who are inciting the mindless violence; for those on the verge of giving into violent ideology for the sake of status or power; for those who are blinded by Satan and the powers of darkness; for those who want to hurt and/or kill followers of Jesus Christ.
Our God and Father is powerful, is in control, and is able to turn tragedy into triumph for the glory of His mighty Name.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES