Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:44-45
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

In writing my daily devotions, I like to stay anywhere from a week to ten days ahead. So, as it happens, the day I'm writing this Wednesday's devotional is actually Sunday, September 11, the ten-year commemoration of those deadly and unprovoked attacks on American soil which claimed the innocent and unsuspecting lives of so many. In the week preceding the ceremonies of remembrance planned for this day, images of the events themselves inundated the news media and the internet, heightening emotions and bringing back memories of exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned of the tragic and heinous onslaught upon our country. The disaster's wake saw an America united unlike any time I can recall in my lifetime, but it shattered the belief that we lived in a nation protected, safe and secure from acts of war on our own soil. We became aware of the enemy, those so desperate to destroy us and our way of life, they were willing to sacrifice their own lives in the process. That evening ten years ago, numbed from watching the footage, and then seeing the shocking, unbelievably horrid video of Muslims celebrating in the Middle East over this victory, I broke down and cried. In my hurt and anger, I was not loving this enemy nor was I praying for them.

The next morning as my students entered my classroom, they were understandably subdued, but their faces revealed all the fear and uncertainty they harbored within. Yesterday's events had crushed the innocence of childhood, and that so grieved my heart. But, it was two of my best and brightest, girls with jet-black hair and brown skin and winning smiles, that riveted my attention at once. Usually enthusiastic and participatory in class, they sat motionless at their desks, heads bowed, looking as though they wished the floor would open up and swallow them. They were Muslim. Now, my heart was breaking.

When the bell rang, I asked the two girls to remain for a minute or two so we could talk. Standing by my desk, stock still like deer caught in headlights, their eyelids rimmed in red, they told me other students had taunted, mocked, and insulted them from the moment they got on the bus until the moment they came into my class. They were hurt, afraid, and confused. Yesterday's devastation had affected them deeply; weren't they Americans like the rest of us? Weren't Muslims among the dead at the World Trade Center? Why are they blaming us? We talked as long as the time allowed; I don't recall the exact words I said, but they must have found them comforting as both were bravely smiling again when they departed with passes to see their counselor and make her aware of the situation. I lifted silent prayers for both those precious girls.

Ten years later, is 9/11 about forgiveness or retaliation? Is it about remembering the fallen and their loved ones in prayer, or remembering the perpetrators with malice? Have we reached the place where we can love our enemies and pray for them? Where do you find yourself ten years later?

Psalms 119:97-120 or 81, 82
2 Kings 6:1-23
1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8
Matthew 5:38-48


  1. In writing my daily devotions, I like to stay anywhere from a week to ten days ahead.

    Me too. I'd NEVER be able to keep up otherwise. The challenge w/working this way however is that many times in the course of blogging I come across something that I MUST write about on a day when something else is already scheduled, which means shifting posts. I'd rather have THIS challenge then not be ready however.

    A difficult task, loving your enemy when they've done something so reprehensible as a terrorist act. Like how you reflected the situation back on yourself in the eyes of two students in your classroom.

    Forgiveness though is the ONLY way for me to live. Harboring anger, hatred only hurts the person who is holding onto it. I refuse to be hurt by OWN anger, my OWN hatred. I feel it then I release it. It does me no good to keep the flame burning, so I snuff it out; as we all should do.

  2. Honestly, I may not be living the scriptures in this respect; I do not know. I can pray for the perpetrators of 911; I can forgive them, but only after they are dead and gone and cannot follow through on their life quest to kill me.

    I question whether God loves Satan. I do not know where in the scriptures God loves Satan. Perhaps the scriptures tell us that God loves His entire creation, or something like that. But I do not know where it says specifically that God loves Satan.

    So this one is difficult. And it goes back to the question I posed in your blog on forgiveness. How do we forgive those whose life long ambition is to kill us? I believe that kind of ambition is Satanic. I believe these people have allowed Satan to enter into their spirits and they become his tools. But Satan does not enter where he is not welcomed. It's that 'free will' thing again. So of their own free will, these people become tools of Satan.

    I do not know where the scriptures command us to forgive Satan. To do so would be to commune with evil, to allow evil into our lives, and to condone evil. I do not believe that is what these scriptures mean.

    If according to the scriptures we are supposed to forgive folks like the ones about whom I speak, the one's who are actively trying to kill us and who have sworn an oath to follow through on that life quest until they die, then we must adopt a posture of passivism. And we certainly should not send our military over to their countries to try to kill them before they kill us. No, I do not believe that when Jesus tells us to love our enemies He is talking about these kinds of enemies. Jesus loves Satan only enough to cast him into Hell fire. That seems to be the model here. If we are going to condone our military fighting against these people, we cannot do that and forgive these people at the same time.

    But back to your example, the Muslim students in your class, they did nothing wrong. They received the trespass against them. And the students who taunted and mocked them are the trespassers. I wonder if Islam teaches to forgive those who trespass against you? I do not know the answer to this question. But if the roles were reversed, and it were Christian children being taunted and mocked by Muslim children, then as soon as the episode was over and the dust settled, not to start up again, I believe the scriptures tell us that the Christian children should forgive them. That is what I believe these scriptures mean.

    But I believe that there is a difference between forgiving these kinds of trespasses, and the kind that occurred on 911. I may be wrong. But from the scriptures, this is presently how I see it. If I am wrong, I hope that someone will offer their best thinking on the matter and let me know where I have missed it.

    Do we forgive the home intruder standing in the bedroom with a knife as he comes at us to kill us, or do we remember where we keep our 410 next to the bed and blow his _$$ away? Once he is dead and gone to whatever rewards he might have in the next life, I am delighted to forgive him for the trespass. But until then, I'm not sure I can, or even should.

    I shouldn't get so wound up, Martha. I do not claim to be right in my interpretation of the scriptures, only trying to get it right.

    Another thought-provoking devotion, Martha. Thank you for that. Now I need to go douse myself with cold water!

    I do not believe that Satan is involved in every human trespass against another human. Where Satan is involved though, I believe there is a question on the forgiveness doctrine.

    Thanks again!

  3. Oh Martha. I think you handled your situation in class so beautifully and with so much grace. I believe that is what the Lord calls us to do. God has forgiven us everything, we must try to imitate Him in this and pray for the strength to do so as it certainly isn't always easy.

    This really touched my heart.

  4. Once again, I am so moved by all your thoughtful and touching comments, my friends!
    Hank, you, indeed, bring up an incredibly powerful argument. I believe that we are to defend ourselves when threatened and, as you state, if our enemies are controlled by Satan, the least we can do is pray that God will convict them and change their hearts. Jesus wants us to love our enemies, but He never says we have to like them.
    Blessings and many thanks to all!

  5. I just finished an amazing book called "Left to Tell" written by a woman who survived the Rawandan genocide and whose faith in God is mind blowing! Her family and was brutally murdered and she herself had to hide in a tiny bathroom with seven other women for three months while murderers were running rampant in her country but she forgives! It is truly amazing! I really enjoyed it. It reminded me painfully of all the small things in others i have trouble forgiving...not pretty...

  6. Thanks for sharing this, Colleen. It sounds like an inspiring read; I'll look for it in the library.
    Again, thank you for the wonderful comments! :)

  7. The challenge about forgiveness to me is personal. I'm definitely no expert on how to do it, but when a lack of forgiveness affects my personal relationships, then everyone suffers, including me. Forgiving enemies I don't know and probably never will is a mental exercise. Forgiving family and friends is a heart (and hard) exercise. Thanks for making us all think about it...

  8. Thank you for this great comment, Lynne. Forgiveness isn't easy, as we've touched on before, but if we hang on to hurts, allowing them to fester within, we do adversely affect all those around us and, especially, ourselves. I think we would all prefer to live without bitterness and resentment.


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