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Thought

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.

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Thought

Give us this day our daily bread

24-Hour news coverage is a feature of modern life. Millions watch the various television news channels for as much as 8 hours a day. There is a fascination with the latest “breaking news” and with the reports through the day which concentrate on the “big” stories. People are afraid of missing something important. When big events happen the news coverage is saturated with the various angles of the story.

News reports give the impression that they are helping us to stay in touch with the real world but many of the stories they cover are not relevant to our daily lives. At best news reports give us a small, selective, sample of what is happening in the world. I watched a programme recently on D R Congo which described the genocide in that country over the past 15-20 years in which more than 6 million people have died. The reporter said it was the largest number of deaths in any country since the Second World War, yet there have been hardly any reports about it.

Our daily lives are not newsworthy. Most of our time is taken up with the ordinary routine of life. It is encouraging, therefore, to know that God cares about us and our ordinary lives even though we will never make the news headlines! He knows about the stresses and anxieties we experience and he cares about us. We are living in difficult economic times. For many families, unemployed people and pensioners it is hard to find the money for their daily needs. Billions of people in the world live on less than a dollar a day.

Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they are?”

As the winter comes to an end there are more birds around. They wake early to find their food for the day. Perhaps you put food out for them because you care about them. Jesus said that his heavenly Father cares about us very much and knows what we need. So he taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven…Give us this day our daily bread.”