I am horrified at the news of the capture of hundreds of Assyrian Christians by ISIS and the reports of the cold blooded murder of many men, women and children. Christians around the world are experiencing diabolical persecution. Think of the recent murder of Coptic Christians in Libya; the infamous blasphemy laws of Pakistan and other Islamic countries where Sharia is law; the forced conversion laws in parts of India where Christians are forced to re-convert to Hinduism; the crucifixion of Iraqi Christian men; the religious police of Saudi Arabia where Christianity is forbidden even in the privacy of one’s home; Boko Haram and escalating rampage against Christians in Nigeria and even the subtle and not so subtle attacks against Christians by atheists here in the Unite States. Satan is on a rampage throughout the world targeting Christians.
My blood boils when I read about what is going on, and I want to strike out but …. (today’s Gospel, Matthew 5:43-48) …
“Jesus said to His disciples: ‘You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father …'”
This is hard teaching. It goes against the natural instinct to strike back. Jesus is not suggesting that we become door mats. We have to take action to protect ourselves, but we cannot take revenge on those who persecute us. We may not destroy them. We have to condemn their actions – yes – and that may require us to assertively defend ourselves, but we may not wish them evil. In fact, Jesus tells us that we need to pray for them and their conversion.