The wicked murder of an elderly priest Jacques Hamel near Rouen is shocking. How should we respond to such wickedness? Jesus' words in Matthew 5 come to mind "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Loving our enemies does not mean that we shouldn't seek to prevent such wickedness nor that we shouldn't seek justice, it doesn't mean that we don't weep with those who weep. It doesn't mean we have to like the people who commit the atrocities, but why are we to love them? What's the motivation for loving them?
Jesus gives us the motivation in the next verse: "love your enemies...so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and send the rain on the just and the unjust." We're to love our enemies so that we can be like our Father in heaven. God is kind to all that he has made (Psalm 145:9).
The second reason Jesus gives is that we are to be different to the world around us, if we only love those who love us, then we're no different to anyone else, Jesus' calling is higher. His followers are to be salt and light, distinctive and attractive.
Graciously, most of us have not experienced an Islamic terrorist attack, loving your enemy in the midst of an attack may be very difficult to work out. Naturally you would want to prevent as much harm as possible, this may mean doing your best to restrain the terrorist, this may save his life as well as others. I pray none of us end up in this situation, but it may be worth us thinking how can we love our enemies now? Here's an example that perhaps would be easier to relate to:
A lady spent a long time decorating her house and front garden, and then a family moved in next door who turned their front garden into a desert, broke their windows, and caused havoc. The final straw was when one of the boys climbed over the fence and threw a whole can of orange paint over the patio walls. The lady this happened to was furious! She did not like her neighbours. She was not happy with the Lord for putting her where he had put her. Realizing that her heart was not right, she got down on her knees and said "Lord, you know I don't like these people, help me to love them." She did not feel any different, but she resolved to exercise love. She cooked a dinner and baked a cake for her neighbours and sought to care for them. They didn't change, but she did. She had begun to love them. When they moved away, she wept!
How is such love possible? Only by looking at the love God has first shown to us, "God shows his love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5v8).
Tomorrow we'll consider the next part of Jesus' words "pray for those who persecute you,"