Jesus is different. He asks us to live in a way that is contrary to the rest of the world. We humble ourselves to become great; to receive, we give away. It’s challenging and often difficult to do. Yet when we do these things, our example has power to change the world. Of all Jesus’ commands none is more challenging than to “Love your enemies”.
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31)
Loving your enemies also includes forgiving them – something misunderstood by so many. In the UK one of the greatest examples of love and forgiveness in recent years happened 25 years ago this month on 8th November 1987, when the IRA detonated a bomb that killed eleven people and injured 68 in the town of Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. It was Remembrance Sunday. Committed Christian Gordon Wilson and his twenty year old daughter Marie were standing at the war memorial when the bomb went off. Marie died from the injuries she received in the explosion. Following the tragedy, Gordon Wilson was interviewed by the BBC. “I bear no ill will to anybody nor does my wife,” he said. He also added that he had prayed for the bombers.
“The words that he spoke during that interview went global, touching the hearts of millions including the Queen,” wrote Mervyn Jess of BBC News. Many believe that the huge media coverage along with Gordon Wilson’s reaction transformed it from a tragedy to a turning point in the troubled history of Northern Ireland.
This week’s ‘Unreported World’ documentary shown this week on the UK’s Channel 4 showed that it’s not just followers of Jesus that have the will to forgive. Ahmed Jama Mohamed arrived in the UK as a child, where he trained as a chef and set up a successful restaurant before returning to war-torn Somalia, leaving his wife and children in the relative safety of London. His aim, to bring peace and normality back to his homeland.
On the Channel 4 website, Aidan Hartley, a journalist with many years experience of Somalia, writes: “Ahmed Jama is a man who serves up hope one meal at a time for a people spat out and exhausted by war. His one-man peace process is to cook comfort food, to bring Somalis back to the table in Mogadishu to enjoy a meal with loved ones, to provide them with the space to enjoy time talking, to pass the time – something that endless, total war has denied them for almost a generation.” Just days before filming, two suicide bombers burst in, shooting at customers before blowing themselves up in his restaurant. Twenty people were murdered. The Islamist perpetrators gloated over the deaths and promised to strike again. When asked if he felt angry and resentful, Ahmed Jama replied, “We have to show forgiveness.”
It is in responding to the difficulty of God’s challenge to love our enemies that we recognise afresh our inability to be all that God calls us to be. Even the apostle Paul, who, as a follower of Jesus, never seemed to put a foot wrong, admitted “I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it.” (Romans 7:18) If our world is to live in peace, we personally need to be made anew. No wonder Jesus said: “You must be born again.” (John 3:7)