Every time I sit down to write a blog recently, there’s some new atrocity in the news. Shootings, bombings, stabbings. Somehow terror has grown even more terrifying, sudden, and startling.
It’s hard to imagine the kind of evil it takes to drive a truck deliberately through a crowd of celebrating families, open fire on revellers with a semi-automatic, or detonate a bomb that indiscriminately massacres crowds of people.
The easiest, most obvious, and seemingly most natural, response is to hate. Hate Daesh and al-qaeda, hate the Mahdi Army and Boko Haram, and hate whoever else is presently unleashing their evil upon the world.
And yet, a couple of thousand years ago, on a mountainside in the Roman province of Judea, Jesus Christ stood and taught possibly one of the most scandalous messages of all:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour 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.
– Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV)
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. There’s no qualifying statement, no small print about not having to love the really evil ones. Just a simple command, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Jenny, a good friend of mine, runs a prayer text group, praying about the topic of human trafficking. She has a sincere and proactive love for the victims. A month or two ago she decided to encourage prayer for the perpetrators too. That is a radical call to follow a radical messiah.
It’s easy, and right, to show love for the victims. The twitter trending topics on the day of any given atrocity will show you that, for both believers and unbelievers, prayer for those we feel empathy with is almost a given. It’s harder to love and pray for the perpetrators.
It’s easy, and right, to show love for the victims. It’s harder to love and pray for the perpetrators.
I don’t know how to love the kind of person who does what they do, but I know that the one I’ve dedicated my life to following says that I have to all the same. He calls for the kind of outrageous, scandalous, ridiculous love that defies logic, reason and hate. He calls for the kind of love He showed us.
If our only hope for our enemies is vengeance and punishment? The hate will never end, it’s a vicious race to rock bottom. If we give in to hate then we’re letting our worldview be coloured by the very thing that drives our enemies.
I don’t know how to love the kind of person who does what they do, but I know that the one I’ve dedicated my life to following says that I have to all the same.
This week, while praying for the victims of the latest round of hate, I prayed also for the perpetrators. I prayed that God would pierce the darkness of their organisations and their hearts alike, that somewhere in the ocean of hate He would bring forth salvation and from that seed change would come.
The thing about the gospel is if it cannot save them it cannot save us either; if it can’t work in the darkest of situations it can’t work in any. If the gospel can’t reach the worst of sinners then it can’t reach and transform and change me. That is the scandalous offence of the gospel; it’s open to all.
I’m going to be praying for Daesh specifically over coming weeks; not as an organisation, my sincere hope is that their organisation of hate is eradicated, but as individual human beings. I find it a massive challenge to do so, but I believe that the messiah teaches us to do just that. I hope that you would too.
Let’s out radical the radicalised; the only thing more radical than hate is love.