On July 7, 2005, London City experienced the worst single terrorist attack to take place in the Great Britain. The summer train (tube) carnage claimed more than fifty lives and left many others injured. Among the victims was the beautiful daughter of a vibrant Bristol preacher, Julie Nicholson. Her daughter Jenny, a musician, was on her way to work when Mohammed Sidique Khan detonated the bomb in the underground train.
A few weeks earlier, Rev. Nicholson was preaching insistently on forgiveness and reconciliation at a Church in Bristol where she was a vicar. After the incidence, her congregation and indeed everyone who knew her expected her to voice out words of forgiveness to the person who killed her daughter. It was shocking to all to hear Rev. Julie say that she will never forgive. In fact, few months after she resigned from her position as a vicar and preacher saying that she does not have the moral strength to preach about forgiveness when she is bearing a hurt in her heart that she cannot let go. Ten years after, in 2015, she said the following to the Telegraph:
“Can I forgive them for what they did? No, I cannot. And I don’t wish to. I said in the early weeks and still now say the name of my daughter’s murderer, Mohammed Sidique Khan, every day.”
During the fight for the emancipation of blacks in America and the campaign for equality, Rev. Martin Luther King Jnr was in and out jail for his freedom utterances. In one of his essays from jail, “Love your enemies,” he made the following legendary statements:
To our most bitter opponents, we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you.
There is a universal misconception of love. What most people call love is not close to that theological virtue. Love is not lust nor a feeling that is liable to expire. St. Paul tells us that love is eternal. Somewhere I read that love is blind but that is not true. Love sees but does not judge. One musician puts it this way:
Love doesn’t ask why
It speaks from the heart
And never explains
Don’t you know that
Love doesn’t think twice
It can come all at once
Or whisper from a distance (Celine Dion).
We might see sense in loving our neighbors as ourselves but to love our enemies? Does that make sense to anyone here? If love means making a sacrifice for another person and the individual’s welfare, then loving your enemy means going the extra mile for his or her good. Love and loving are both a challenge and a chance for every person. Love is not a feeling as we said earlier; it is an action. The word of God tells us (John 3:16) that “God so loved the world that He SENT (action) his only son.” Further, John (3:17) tells us that: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to SAVE (action) the world through Him. On his part, our Lord declares: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
An important question that requires an answer in this reflection is “who is the enemy that needs to be loved?” Obviously, some people have more enemies than others just like some have more friends than others.
An enemy could be the person that hurts you in various ways, by words and actions, slightly or grievously. An enemy could be the individual who has become an obstacle to your success. An enemy could be the one who wants you dead the next minute. All these enemies and more need to be loved not tolerated nor endured. How possible is that from our human perspective unaided by grace?
There are still practical situations related to loving one’s enemy for which we are asked to love. For instance, how easy would it be for a Tutsi to love a Hutu after the Rwandan bloodbath that is courteously called genocide today? How could a black South African love a white South African after the dehumanizing experience of apartheid? How could a child love the enemies and murderers of his / her parents?
Consider this, whenever we sin we are disconnected from God and become His “enemies” (James 4:4), but His love for us does not go extinct (Romans 5:7-10). He keeps looking out for us with his love as the father of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31). On the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ showed love to his executioners (enemies) when he tearfully prayed for them: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing?” Don’t you think that those enemies of yours do not know what they are doing and need your love?
Today’s message of love is a very tough one; it is at the same time the only way. To bring the message closer to us, we are encouraged to love without limits. Your enemy deserves more love and compassion from you than anyone else. To love is not a choice; it is rather a grave instruction. In the Gospel of John (13:34-35), our Lord Jesus presents a new framework for love as he says:
I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.
From the passage above, we learn that love is a normative prescription for our Christian life. Furthermore, it gives those who embrace it an identity “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
“How can you love your enemies?”
- You love your enemies by your forgiveness.
- You love your enemies by extending hands of reconciliation.
- You love your enemies by helping them when and where you can.
- You love your enemies by praying positively for them (Matt.5:44).
- You love your enemies by facilitating their salvation.
- You love your enemies by turning the other cheek (not retaliating).
As we march into the new week, let your minds and heart be built upon love and especially love for our human enemies.
Have a great week and make sure you release your love to someone whom you think does not deserve it; that is what God is demanding from you today.