Love your enemies! Has there ever been a more difficult edict? Every day we are confronted by bloodshed and violence inflicted by very unloving types. Graphic TV news portrays distressing vision depicting innocent victims mutilated by Islamic State or other brutal jihadists.
How can we love enemies who demonstrate such ruthless character? First we must accept Jesus came as a revolutionary. He came to confront the spiralling disaster of a fallen world.
The Romans actually crucified Jesus as a traitor. He was charged with the crime of sedition. A sign saying ‘King of the Jews’ was nailed on his cross, to indicate his crime. He was seen to be a threat to the ruling Roman power of the day. He was a Jewish revolutionary, as far as they were concerned.
From the cross Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Love verbalised in the most brutal circumstances.
Violence was not uncommon to Jesus or his followers. In fact Matthew, the gospel writer quotes Jesus saying to them: “But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew chapter 5, verse 44) No hiding conflict and persecution there.
Before we think about modern terrorism and the brutality of jihadist groups let us confirm Jesus knew what he was saying.
He warned the disciples ‘I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves’ and ‘they will flog you in the synagogues.” (Matthew chapter 10, verse 16)
The Apostle John was the only disciple who did not die violently. Peter was martyred in Rome where he was crucified upside down, so that his death would not be seen as the equal of Jesus. James died by the sword. His unnamed accuser was so moved by his courage he embraced the Christian faith and asked to die with the disciple. The Romans obliged and both were beheaded. Jesus also chose to die violently.
The revolution in His teaching is found in three words: “God is love.” He is not about love. He does not have to choose love. He is love. If we know him and have united with him we are bathed in love. It’s amazing.
So how do we deal with jihadists? People are slaughtered week after week and we are deeply moved by so many bloody events.
Molenbeek is a neighbourhood in Brussels and it is described as the incubator for the recent Paris and Brussels terror attacks. It is home to a critical community battling poverty and unemployed youth. Out of this unhealthy environment jihadi foreign fighters emerge and many are active in Syria and Iraq. Belgium has the highest EU ratio of young men who have links with ISIS in Syria.
The hurt and pain is still evident in Molenbeek. There is a gathering of Muslim mothers today who are getting support from a group called ‘Les Parents Concernes’ (The Affected Parents). They are meeting with mothers who are grieving. These hurting women have watched their kin become radicalized and join ISIS. “Our children are buying one way tickets to their graves,” one mother said.
These mothers are trying to make a difference but they feel isolated and cope in the face of little or no support.
Christian Aid Mission (CAM) is on the frontline. They report Islamic State militants are disguising themselves as refugees at UN refugee camps in Jordan.
“The camps are dangerous because they have ISIS, Iraqi militants and Syrian militias. It’s a place for gangs,’ the spokesman said. Mission workers enter only with police protection.
An ISIS fighter came to faith in Jesus after watching the love of God demonstrated by the Christians.
A man in the Middle East told me he came to faith after being taught to hate all his life. Love your enemies was an explosive shock to him.
The jihadists are made in the image of God. He grieves for them. Remember what Jesus told his disciples? “Pray for those who persecute you.”
While we want them restrained, contained and even detained, above all we pray for their salvation. We pray for outreaches like Christian Aid Mission and all the others courageously impacting the danger zones today.
Many Muslims are very distressed. Every day thousands are leaving Islam. According to a report by faithfreedom.org in Africa alone, 16,000 Muslims leave Islam everyday. This same report quoted an interview with an Islamic cleric Ahmad al Qataari on the internet site Aljazeera.net. He said, ‘in every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity.” (Islam in Fast Demise by Ali Sina, faithfreedom.org)
God is love. Visit the Christian Aid Mission website – http://www.christianaid.org. Pray for Christians ministering on the frontlines. Above all else, pray.