"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6: 27-31)
This weekend sees the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and there has been some controversy emerging from the US as to how these events might be remembered. One evangelical Pastor has even suggested burning copies of the Koran.
The portrayal of all Muslims as evil is on one level naive bigotry but even if Christians chose to view Muslims as an enemy then responding with hatred is a denial of our Jesus words. A point made by an Imam who went to meet with the American Pastor who had been threatening to burn the Koran.
"We came to have a peaceful conversation with the pastor, to hear his grievance, to ask him to follow his own Scripture about his enemies. His Scripture teaches him to love his enemies." - Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, after meeting with preacher Terry Jones, whose church is planning to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday. (Source: USA Today)
Christianity began as a religion oppressed and persecuted, hundreds of martyrs gave their life in the Colosseum. The response of the early Christian community was not hatred and violence but to continue to proclaim the love and peace of God.
Jesus injunction to love our enemies is one of the most difficult and demanding teachings for us to live out. Jesus doesn’t encourage us to tolerate or put up with our enemies but to love them and to love them without forsaking the core of our faith – God’s love for us expressed in Jesus sacrifice in that while we were yet sinners (enemies of God) Christ died for us (see Romans 5).
In this sense any Christian who propagates hate is turning their back on Jesus’ teaching to love your enemies, for God has loved us even while we were still his enemies.
In an environment that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity and religion in general it is more than possible the words of Jesus will take on a greater meaning and challenge for us all: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.