Some people call today’s age as the “age of terrorism.” While some politicians call these as random incidents in history, yet for many who have been affected, these are real and truly scary. When innocent lives are taken, brutally killed and broadcasted through major TV networks, YouTube and newspapers, something is awfully wrong.
There’s no doubt many nations are afraid. When we hear that more than 20,000 men and women including teen boys and girls travel across the globe to join in the killing, it is normal for us to ask, why is it that nothing seems to be happening to stop this? Most politicians do nothing but bicker. National leaders play the dangerous games of international politics. Presidents and leaders have spoken against it but it seems to be getting worse.
It is only when the enemies turn out to be living among us and do damage that give people the fear. While a few people begin to arm themselves, most people just go through life as if everything is okay.
Into this culture of terror, Jesus’ command to love our enemies is certainly baffling and inexplicable for many. These questions come to mind. “Lord, how are we to love those who hate our nation? How can we love those who want us dead, or even worse, want to harm or kill our precious love ones? How can we love those who want to blow us to bits or torture us just because of our faith? How can we even love them when most of them are half a world away and we can’t even touch them? Love our enemies? You have got to be kidding, Jesus.”
Whether this is an age of terrorism or not, we certainly are a generation terrorized.
What do we do about our fears? The apostle John was inspired to write, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Of course, we humans can never attain perfection of love on our own. Yet the Bible says that the two are inversely proportional —the more love, the less fear, and vice versa. John goes on in verse 20 to say if we don’t love those we can see, we’re lying if we claim to love the God we can’t see.
Perhaps we can find explanation from Jesus’ teachings through John. Maybe the way out of our fearful abyss is to actually start loving those we do see.
When we focus on radical Islamist terror, all too frequently our Muslim neighbors become part of the hated enemy by association. When the focus shifts to right wing extremes like the KKK, our hatred spills over onto anyone conservative. When our focus shifts to the ungodly left wing sectors of the society, our anger goes over onto liberals. All too easily, fear of the few metastasizes into terror and even hatred of the many. At its extreme, our fear walls us off from anyone we perceive as not like us. Sometimes just because they look or sound different, we automatically look at them as “enemies.”
The call of Jesus is to smash those walls we’ve built, to reach out, meet and serve those we think are our enemies. Not just the ones halfway around the world, but also the ones in our neighborhoods and towns who may be hiding in fear themselves.
Although we may never understand the radicals of al-Qaida, Boko Haram or ISIS, yet we can surely pray for their enlightenment and understanding of God’s message of grace. As much as we hate what they do, Jesus died for them. Perhaps you know the story of the apostle Paul. He was once called Saul before his conversion. In many ways, he was like a terrorist to the church. Together with radical Jews, he was going from town to town arresting Christians and putting them to death. Yet, God’s plan for him was totally different. On his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, Jesus gave him the enlightenment. He became God’s apostle to the Gentiles. Saul became Paul. The terrorist who brought death became a messenger of life through grace. If God can make this happen to a terrorist, let’s pray that He will do the same with other terrorists.
In addition, we should also pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted. We hear of churches being burned in India, Nigeria, the Middle East. They certainly need our love and prayers.
Why love our enemies? Because God loves all. Jesus’ death on the cross is for all humanity. He died for you and me even when we were yet his “enemies.” No exception. Just maybe, we might discover that people who we think are our enemies are just as scared as we are. Perhaps love can drive out not only our fear of them, but theirs of us, too. Perfect love casts out fear. Most importantly, they are God’s children, too.
When we look at history, including biblical history, we see that we cannot assume that Christian life will always be in peace and security. While we can argue that spiritually this is the case, yet, Christians do suffer and even die. Though some will disagree with this, the truth is Jesus never promised us safety in this world.
We need to get serious about the fact that—practically speaking—those who love sometimes die along the way. Jesus died on the cross. So did many men and women of God who have come after him, and so, frankly, some of us. In reality, all of us will die. It is only a question of when. Our hope is not in today’s world but in Jesus Christ who saved us and given us eternal life, full of joy. He also reconciled us and invites us to have a beautiful relationship with Him forever.
Jesus did not say “love your enemies, for in so doing you will find they love you back.” Instead, he said “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:44-45). While love can and often brings healing, sometimes it will simply give us the strength to face the threats of our enemy without fear and without threat in return. Sometimes when we love our enemies, it does not change them. The change happens in us.
As humans, we can’t really attain the same perfection as Jesus on our own. Impossible. Loving enemies?– that is what God did for all of us. God has done it for us by sending His Son Jesus (John 3:16-17) — not to condemn but to save. The command to love our enemies should focus us to Jesus Christ who is the one and only one who can really love enemies. However, Jesus did say that if we love only those who love us, then that is really nothing. The point of the article is to make us think about the people in our neighborhood. Jesus did tell us to pray for them, bless them and do good to them (Matthew 5:44). Regarding terrorists, nations do have responsibilities to keep the peace and order (Romans 13:1-7). (On a side note, since I was asked a question: If someone comes to my house and plan to destroy and kill, I will do my utmost to protect my love ones. Protecting my family will be an expression of my love.)
Our role is to pray to God that His Kingdom come and that all these terrorists will come to an understanding of WHO God is in Jesus Christ. It may well be that we cannot stop terrorism. But in the perfect love of Jesus Christ, we can stop being terrorized. May all of us live that love.