“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5.
As a Christian, I admit that the my ideal response to my enemies is to love them, just as Jesus says. In the current climate of the ISIS situation, where Americans are about to bomb and kill militants, is aggression the proper Christian response? One pastor I heard on the radio said, “Yes, it is our duty as Christians to stand up for righteousness, and destroy them.” I wonder where his fervor was in 1994 when over 500,000 (and possibly a million) Rwandans were killed in a 100 day period?
I am an American, and inside of me there is a desire to see America prosper. But what I have read and studied of Jesus’ words perplex me when people are so adamant that killing others is the proper Christian response. In what context is love being expressed towards an enemy by dropping a bomb? I see the benefit to myself — fewer bad guys — but where is loving the enemy fulfilled?
In Matthew 4 we see that Jesus is tempted by Satan to become the ruler of the kingdoms of the Earth. But Jesus rebukes him, and orders Satan away. And as the story unfolds, Jesus is challenged time and again to be the King people expect — one of political and military power who would restore Israel to it’s place of prominence. Throughout the Gospel narrative, Jesus rejects this viewpoint, and asserts that he is going to suffer and die.
If, as the author of Hebrews 1:3 says, Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” then what is our response to evil? Did Jesus seize political and military power? Did he violently oppose those who sought his death? Did he say that the greatest commandment is to look after self and family, then close friends and community, and by all measures protect yourself with weapons both small and large? And hence, destroy ISIS?
In my faith walk there is almost nothing more difficult to comprehend in terms of a practical response to a threat to my security and those around me. But what I read and see through the New Testament is that Jesus spoke seemingly impossible truth: love your enemies. And how do we do that? He showed us: two wooden beams and three spikes.