Friday, September 16, 2016

Mercy – Love your enemies

Jesus said that his followers were to be as unfailingly merciful as God is. But, all that talk of mercy is no mere sentimentality. Fundamental to that mercy is one of the hardest, most distinctive, and most radical demands Jesus makes of his followers: that they love and pray for their enemies.

The Christian must treat his enemy as a brother [or sister], and requite hostility with love. His behavior must be determined not by the way others treat him, but by the treatment he himself receives from Jesus [see Romans 5:10], it has only one source, and that is the will of Jesus 

What might that look like? These quotes from C. S. Lewis are a good place to start:

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.” 

That is a challenge when thinking of real enemies, but, closer to home, it seems particularly pertinent in this election season as we engage those with whom we disagree politically..

And here is a letter from Lewis to a friend, Dom Bede Griffiths, 16 Apr 1940, on praying for your enemies:

The practical problem about charity (in one’s prayer) is very hard work, isn’t it? When you pray for Hitler and Stalin how do you actually teach yourself to make the prayer real? The two things that help me are (a) A continual grasp of the idea that one is only joining one’s feeble little voice to the perpetual intercession of Christ who died for these very men. (b) A recollection, as firm as I can make it, of all one’s own cruelty; which might have blossomed under different conditions into something terrible. You and I are not at bottom so different from these ghastly creatures.
Do we pray for our enemies and opponents? And not just that they would change and be more agreeable toward us? Do we pray that they might know some taste of God’s mercy and delight? Do we pray that our own hearts might be softened toward them? Our own minds more willing to understand them? Do we seek to give them the benefit of the doubt? If we are to carry our enemies and opponents in our hearts and on our tongues to the Throne of God’s mercy, does it make any difference after those prayers in the way we think or talk or tweet or post on Facebook about them? The answers to those question are critical to whether we are committed to being faithful to Jesus or are content to live in sin.

Becoming a People of God's Mercy and Delight, Part 1

Becoming a People of God's Mercy and Delight, Part 2

More Mercy and Delight

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