In the season of Remembrance, we consider those who have heroically given their lives in war. However, Jesus calls all of us to a radical heroism in our daily lives,
‘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.’ (Matthew 5:43-45).
Our ‘enemies’ are rarely life-threatening; they can simply be impatient, judgmental, self–righteous or just plain disagreeable! Whether the conflict is with a family or church member, work colleague or neighbour, our attitude toward them should be one of love. We will naturally want to retaliate, but Jesus commands us to love!
It’s only when we are ready to pray for someone whom we find difficult, that God can soften our attitude towards them. Like us, they are those in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Pastor executed by the Nazis at the end of World War 2, wrote:
‘This is the supreme demand. Through the medium of prayer, we go to our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God. For if we pray for them, we are taking their distress and poverty, their guilt and perdition upon ourselves and pleading to God for them.’
When we start loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors, we become more like Jesus Himself. He willingly laid down His life for us, prayed for His persecutors and gives us the power to love our enemies as He did.
At a time when we recognise that we all need heroes, how will we respond to this call to radical heroism in our own life?
Canon Paul Hardingham
Feature Image: (Cropped from) Jesus Teaching on the Seashore, James Tissot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons