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Love your enemies

July 2021 | by Peter Milsom

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Sadly, there are many examples of hatred in our world today. Hatred between peoples leads to conflict, such as the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

In Africa, inter-tribal conflicts blight the lives of many people. The systematic persecution of the Uighur Muslims in China seeks to rob them of their human dignity. Many Rohingya people in Myanmar have fled to Bangladesh because of the brutal military regime in Myanmar.

Some people use social media as a vehicle for hateful messages and threats of violence.

In Britain, legislation has been enacted against ‘hate crimes’. The Metropolitan Police define a hate crime as, ‘Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.’

This can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property.

In the hostile worlds of both the 1st and 21st centuries, the teaching of Jesus is radical and challenging: ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.’

Jesus not only commanded us to love our enemies, but he also exemplified it. He came to bring reconciliation in the face of the deep-seated hostility between human beings and God.

Even in the hearts of apparently respectable people there can be a deep hostility against God. Yet God, who could justly condemn us, sent his Son to be our Saviour.

On the cross, God made Jesus, who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. The cross was a place of deep hatred as Jesus’s enemies tried to destroy him. Yet as he hung there, the Saviour prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’

The life and teaching of Jesus shines a bright light of hope into the darkness of our world.

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