Lately, I've developed an affinity for the Military Channel. It's not that I enjoy war that I like the Military Channel so much. It's because I enjoy history. The channel is rich with historical shows on World War II and other eras, but WWII is my favorite time period to study.
It's my favorite because the time was so complex and difficult, and I am continually amazed by the spirit it took people fighting against what must have seemed almost insurmountable evil to survive.
There were many victims in the war. Last night I watched what I could of the slaughter of Jewish people in Latvia - a country we don't hear much about. By the time the show was halfway through I was quite sad and turned it off. What a senseless waste of lives - lives that God held dear.
In modern times we have this news summary from Crosswalk:
Boko Haram Calls for War to Annihilate Nigerian Christians
The African Islamist terror group Boko Haram announced Sunday a "war" on Nigerian Christians and said it would launch a series of coordinated attacks to annihilate all Christians living in the northern parts of the country, the International Business Times reports. An unnamed Boko Haram spokesman reportedly said, "We will create so much effort to end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state that the Christians won't be able to stay." Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a series of increasingly frequent and increasingly violent attacks against churches and individual Christians in Nigeria. The Nigerian government has pledged to crack down on the terrorists, but it "cannot be prepared for what is to come," the Boko Haram spokesman asserted.
Read the news article here
Will the killing never end? What does it take for people to get along?
Jesus must have recognized the inevitable fact that people will always have enemies here on earth. Fortunately, the majority of us in this country - exceptions such as the westward expansion, slavery, and the aftermath of both notwithstanding - have not had to deal with enemies like our brothers and sisters face in other parts of the world. Most of us can admit that there are people that give us a pain between our ears every day. There is the relative you may not like, or the neighbor who harasses you. There might be a co-worker who is jealous of you, or there might be a co-worker of whom you are jealous. At any rate, there will always be people that do not strive for our best interests. We can reasonably consider these people as enemies.
Yet, Christ says to forgive them. All of them. In fact, we're supposed bless them, and pray for those who persecute us. There's no getting around this. Jesus didn't mean something else which was muddied in translation. He meant what he said and said what he meant.
A quick glance through literature from Christian history proves this. The early church fathers and mothers wrote about forgiveness and praying for enemies. Here is an excerpt from an Orthodox prayer that I came across recently:
Lord Jesus Christ, who commanded us to love our enemies and all those who insult and hurt us, and to pray for them and forgive them; you yourself prayed for your enemies, who crucified you. Give us, we pray, a spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness, so that we may forgive every injury and be reconciled with our enemies. Grant us Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor. Give to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins; and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith and sincere conversion. Help us to repay evil with goodness. -- adapted from the Orthodox "Prayer for Enemies"
I also found an exercise in "Lent and Easter: Wisdom from St. Benedict" that was useful. The author encouraged readers to make a list of those they considered enemies. In this exercise, the author challenged readers to go through the names and ask God to bless each one.
Because I have struggled in this area I decided to try it. I didn't write anything down but I decided to pray for anyone I saw with whom I've had a conflict - it was not difficult because I live in a small town and I once worked as a writer for the newspaper. It's a sad fact that expressing a viewpoint contrary to that of the majority, or contrary to that of the 'ruling class' can lead to that kind of thing. Anyway, when I saw someone in that group I just prayed that God would bless them. I left off biting commentary about the Lord helping them to see the error of their ways. And, do you know what? The exercise helped take the edge off. I'm okay with those people now. I still don't like what they do but I know that I can pray for them and let God handle them in a way that he deems best. Handling them is not my business anyway, it's God's.
I wonder what would happen if we Christians actually did these sorts of things routinely? Would it leave us weak? Would we become doormats? I think not. Instead, I believe we would become stronger and able to bear anything with grace and love. There might actually be people who bless God and turn to him because of our love. What do you think?
As for the Nigerian Christians, please pray for them. They are facing a difficult time. Pray also for the Islamists who seek to murder them and drive them from their homes. Pray for the strength of the Nigerian government as they try to protect their people. While you're at it, thank God that we do not face this type of persecution in America. Ask God to keep America strong so that we can continue to help others.
Have a great day.