Loving Those We Are Told Not To

Today is the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and my social media was flooded with memories. Some were remembering the lost, some the families who suffered, and some the men and women who continue to serve in our local fire and police departments. I have also seen a great deal of anger and even hatred. It has even become popular to hate.
We are told that we are to hate Al Qaeda for what they did on 9/11. We are told to hate ISIS for what they are doing to Jews, Christians, and other Muslims. We are told to hate those who lie to us, who cheat on us, and who harm us. We are told to hate our government and those who hold us back in some way. Democrats hate Republicans, and Republicans hate everyone else.
But we aren’t to conform to the pattern of this world.
This year during Vacation Bible School we experimented with having a special instruction time for the middle and high school students who helped during the morning children’s session. One of our sessions was about facing persecution, the students responded very surprisingly. One said they would laugh and mock their persecutors. Another said they would spit in their face, and another would physically fight back.
During the sermon on the mount, Jesus brings up this very topic. Jesus references a common saying to “love you neighbor and hate your enemy;” he rebukes this and returns with this:
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. -Matthew 5:44-45
We have, time and time again, been enemies to God. We have attacked Him, insulted Him, and denied Him all of our lives. Our very sins were weighted on Christ at the cross, and our selfishness drove the nails into His limbs. Still, our God came to us as a man, redeemed us on the cross, and loved us. When we minister to our neighbors and love those who hate us, we stand as ματυς, a martyr, a witness of the glorious freedom and life that come from Christ’s mercy and grace.  After all, our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Let us be lamps of this light in a post 9/11 world. Let us love our enemies in an open and vulnerable way. Let us pray for them and serve them. Let Christ be praised now, and always.
Your brother in Christ, Geoffrey Balke
Agnus Day