43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
A friend of mine was in the Army, he was in the 147th Airborne Division and spent about a year in Iraq. He’s taking his wife and two very small children on an investigatory trip to a very divided country in order to see if they should commit their lives to the mission field. We were discussing this when it led to talking about travel, and subsequently, his time in Iraq. We got on the subject of infantry, insurgence, and eventually, the enemy. He said that as a Christian, he had always heard and talked about loving his enemy. He described his experiences, “It was really surreal to think that someone was trying to kill me, and he had never seen me before. It was my literal enemy, and I realized what it meant to love my enemy.”
While I was talking to him, I thought about what an incredible message this is that Christ has for us, and how deliberate he is to teach his followers to forgive, to be better, to make the world a better place by not carrying hatred around, instead, using love and forgiveness to truly change the world.
My friend went on to say, “I realized then that Christ truly is the only thing that could bring change to our world…our efforts to bring change are really only mitigating the damage.”
The change of hearts is a battle that can’t be won by slick diplomacy or wars, it’s changed from the inside, from the heart. What does it mean to pray for your enemy? To consider their best interest? To want to see them experience the same liberation from the bonds of hatred that you yourself have received, and imagine them experiencing it?. Think about this scenario with imagination. Consider the conflicts that you are aware of on the global theatre, consider those in your own life.
What does this mean to you? Christ’s words are more than just suggestions and a few good ideas. They are instructions on how to live the kingdom life, that is, how to bring heaven to earth. To live as transformed beings, in the midst of a failing and futile humanity.
Christs message is redemption. God wants to redeem this world from its broken state, and it is available now. As he put it, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”