“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.”
Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV)
Over the past week, talk of the violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has dominated the news cycle and social media. Fingers are pointing in every direction as to who is to blame, who has said too little, and who has said too much.
I was talking to a group of friends this morning and one of them spoke about how we are each one decision away from darkness or light. Each decision we make has the potential to destroy or to build; to wound or to heal.
As I contemplated that statement, it occurred to me that we are often quick to assign blame as long as the finger of blame is not pointed back at us. That prompted me to wonder what decisions I have made over the course of weeks, months, years, or even decades which have contributed to the darkness of the world.
Like most everyone, I am deeply disturbed when people speak or act hatefully towards a group of people simply because they are different. But in some ways, I am like those I disapprove. I divide people into groups, also. The groups which I like have names like “family” and “friends.” The groups which I dislike may have names like “terrorists” or “criminals.” Still other groups may be those who resist me or maybe just won’t support me. Ultimately, I, and dare I say we, divide everyone into just two groups: “us” and “them.”
In the above passage from Matthew, Jesus is trying to break down the temptation to divide. He tells us that we must pray – even for enemies and those who hurt us. Why? Because prayer has the power to transform enemies into friends, or maybe I should say, “them” into “us.”
Earlier, I told you that I wondered what decisions I had made, over the course of my life, which have contributed to darkness.
Here are a few of the answers I received. Maybe some will resonate with you.
- The love I have shown is not equal to or greater than the sin I have committed.
- When I have witnessed great acts of great evil, I have not responded with greater acts of love.
- I have been much more willing to accuse others than I have been to accuse myself.
- I do not pray for my enemies as often, or with as much enthusiasm, as I pray for those who love me.
- My failure to pray for others and proclaim the love of Jesus to a broken world has contributed to a spiritual vacuum which allowed darkness to advance.
The world has demonstrated that it lacks maturity. Part of the answer to the world’s problems is for us to become more spiritually mature. We are in the world, but we are not of it. We should be the light of the world. Our spiritual maturity should be the salt that provides life.
If we are concerned about the direction the world is taking, first, we should look at the direction our choices are taking us. Are our decisions moving us deeper into a more mature, dynamic and obedient relationship with Jesus Christ, or are our decisions creating a spiritual void in us and in the world, for the enemy to fill?
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