"You have heard the law that says," Love your neighbor and hate
But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!"
(Jesus, sermon on the mount, Matthew 5:43-44)
"How can I forgive? It hurts too much! I want Justice!"
This is the common reaction, the cry of the human heart, in response to terrorism, senseless killing and violent crimes that plague our society everyday. We demand justice for the evils done to us that disrupt and destroy our lives. Only when we fight fire with fire or return evil for evil are we truly satisfied.
But wait...Is there a better way to respond to the evil and hatred that surrounds us everyday?
In his famous "sermon on the mount," Jesus confronted our sinful hearts with a command that utterly goes against our human nature. "Love your enemies!"
" Now wait Jesus, you don't understand my pain, look what they have done to the person that I love! How can I possibly love my enemies! I hate them!"
Throughout the Bible, the consistent picture of the character of God can be summed up in one word, "Mercy."
God is patient and compassionate and merciful and forgiving. He has every right to punish us for our sins and yet instead he shows mercy instead of judgment. Therefore, Jesus is saying to His disciples, that the mark of a true follower of him can be summed up in this command, "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you." When we obey this command, our hearts are softened and the evil rage inside of us is quenched. Instead of becoming like our enemies, we turn the other cheek and respond with mercy just like God has done for us.
This is the consistent teaching of Scripture. The Apostle Paul in Romans 12 verse 20, instructs Christians to show mercy and forgiveness to our enemies:
"If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.
Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."
Reza Khalili, former member of Iran's revolutionary guard, witnessed brutal treatment and hatred practiced by the government and began to question his Islamic faith.
Years later, he became a Christian after reading the teaching of Jesus on loving our enemies.
Reza confessed that the teaching of Jesus was revolutionary to him and caused him to embrace Christianity after struggling with his faith for many years.
The ultimate example of "loving our enemies" was demonstrated by Jesus himself while he was suffering on the cross for our sins.
Jesus prayed for his executioners by uttering the most beautiful words ever spoken on his lips,
"Father forgive them for they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Jesus lived by what He taught. In the midst of evil and suffering, He forgave.
This is the royal commandment of Christianity, "Love your enemies."
Its the teaching that sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.