Love your enemies

Sadly, there are many examples of hatred in our world today. Hatred between peoples leads to conflict, such as the present 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. In the Sermon on the Mount he said, “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. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

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’ enemies tried to destroy him. Yet as he hung on the cross Jesus 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.


Running the race of life

The 30th Olympic Games of the modern era have begun. The Opening Ceremony for London 2012 was spectacular and was watched by more than a billion people around the world. Athletes from more than 200 countries entered the new Olympic Stadium. They have been training for many years and are now hoping to win a medal.

One of the best kept secrets of London 2012 was who would be chosen to light the Olympic Cauldron. The Cauldron is lit at the Opening Ceremony and stays alight until it is extinguished on the final day. For 70 days the Olympic Torch has been carried around the British Isles. Normally a great champion from the host country is chosen to light the Cauldron in recognition of their past success. At London 2012 it was done differently. Steve Redgrave, the great British rower who won 5 Olympic gold medals in successive Games from 1984 to 2000, carried the Olympic Torch into the Stadium. Steve then handed it to 7 teenage athletes, representing the future of British athletics, who lit the copper petals which converged to form the spectacular Olympic Cauldron for London 2012.

When athletes competed in the ancient Greek Games they could see a former great champion sitting at the end of the course watching the race. These great champions from the past were there to inspire the competitors to run their best and to do well. The early Christians were encouraged to think of the Christian life as being like an athletic race in one of those great Games and to see their Saviour, Jesus, as the one who is there to encourage and inspire them.

In the first century many Christians experienced persecution for their faith. Some were executed by Roman Emperors, like Nero. In Hebrews, Chapter12, the writer says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Each of us has a race marked out for us. Life is often very hard and we may become weary and lose heart. How wonderful it is to know that Jesus, the risen Son of God, is able and willing to help us.