Loving those who hate us
5th July 2019
We've been considering these words:
Last week, we saw that if we don't love those who hate us, we can't reach them, and we asked: how do we reach the point were we can love our enemies?
I think we begin by accepting that my enemy is just as human as I am, just as valuable as I am, just as important as I am. Every human being is of infinite value, including the one who is trying to do me harm.
And then we remember that I am a sinner too. The sins I've committed may not be the same ones that he's committing against me right now, but I am a sinner too, so I cannot judge the sinner who is hurting me.
And that gives us a chance to love, because we've stopped condemning. But it's still difficult, especially when someone's being unkind to you continually. Jesus loved the people who were crucifying him, and prayed for them. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23v34) and we must forgive those who are hurting us. It's not easy, but if we accept that Christ has forgiven all of our sin, how can we refuse to forgive any of somebody else's sin?
It's just reasonable - difficult, but reasonable - for God to say "well, I've forgiven you. You forgive him". It's not easy, but really healthy Christians and really healthy churches loves their enemies.
I heard a story recently of a church in Lebanon, that one day discovered a huge number of Muslim refugees on its doorstep. Now that's hard enough in England, but in the Middle East, a whole bunch of Muslims camped outside the church's front door is a challenging thing. What did they do? Well, they welcomed them in, found them accommodation, gave them baths and food, and included them in their community, and they started getting saved. And now seventy percent of that church is Muslim converts - because that church loved their enemies. There is no power as strong as the power of love.
I saw something on the internet recently that said this:
Hurt people hurt people. That's how pain patterns get passed on. Generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive, and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future."
That's hard to do, but it's the only way forward, isn't it?
I'm not absolutely sure what Paul meant when he wrote, Bless and do not curse. I think he means be positive, not negative about other peopel including the ones who hate you. Have you ever been so hurt that you've hoped, or even prayed, that they have a miserable day tomorrow? Paul says we should always pray God's blessing on those that hurt us. We should pray for God's favour on them, not difficulties for them, even if they really do deserve punishment, because we deserve it too, because we're all sinners.
And we should bless and not curse in terms of how we speak, We should always try to say encouraging things, not negative things.
Compared to genuine persecution from non-Christians, the next thing I'm going to say is going to sound a bit trivial, but it is important. Don't just forgive those who genuinely persecute you. Forgive those who disappoint you. Forgive those who frustrate you. Forgive those who irritate you. Forgive those who let you down. Forgive those who don't quite do things the way you want things done. "Bless and do not curse" applies in church as well as outside.
We often say that Christians are really good at loving each other, but they're not very good at loving non-Christians. I know Christians who are really good at loving non-Christians, but rubbish at loving each other, because they want church to be like this, and they want house group to be like that, they want these songs and that length of service, and so on. Love those who don't see it your way. Bless them and do not curse them, get angry with them or speak negatively abut them.
A man I used to work with in the computer industry had a sign on his door that said "Be reasonable. Do it my way". Beware of this sort of attitude.
Love everybody. Love followers of different religions, and those of no religion, who want to hurt us. Love those who have a different understanding of some biblical passages from yours. Love those who sing out of tune on Sunday morning (although you might want to sing louder than them). Love everybody.