Tuesday, January 06, 2009

on loving one's enemies & gaza

I'm working on my thesis on Romans 12 & 13. I noticed something yesterday in one of the commentaries (an excellent 2007 commentary by Robert Jewett in the Hermeia commentary series). In Romans 12:14 it says, "Bless those who persecute, bless and do not curse." In the other places where this sentiment is found is says, "Pray for those who persecute YOU" (Matthew 5:44), or "Bless those who curse YOU" (Luke 6:28), or "Bless those who curse YOU and pray for YOUR enemies" (Didache 1:3 [a kind of instruction manual used by early Christians]). Although in translations of this passage the word "you" is usually included, Jewett points out that Paul did not include it here. It is as if he is saying, "Bless all persecutors, whether persecute YOU or not." In this way we act in solidarity with those who are oppressed, by recognizing the act of persecution and praying for and wishing health and life to those who are persecuting, rather than hatred. This obviously doesn't mean that we bless the actions they are taking, but that we truly desire what is good for them, living out love even to those who persecute and oppress others.

This, of course, is a difficult teaching, and many Christians apparently think Jesus and Paul can't have been serious when they said this. But there it is, right in our Bible three times! One can't really get around its meaning.

I can talk all I want about "other" Christians, but to practice this kind of love in real life is another matter. It would be so much easier to curse them and hope they died so they couldn't persecute people anymore.

Yesterday and today I'm trying to pray for those who are fighting in Gaza on both sides, and those world leaders who are making decisions about this situation. I truly do want them to be able to live in such a way that they feel strong, healthy, safe and joyful. I hope for showers of blessings on them, not in the form of money or battles won, but in that which makes for true freedom and the ability to have loving relationships.

I pray for myself, as well, that I will learn how and have the courage to live in such a way that does not require oppression of others. I pray for blessings on my country in the form of truth and love, which might require some stuff that we aren't accustomed to thinking of as "blessing." I hope we can begin, as a nation, to see the blessing of life itself and the beauty of the balance of all creation fitting together in harmony when we act for the sake of others. May we begin living this way and set aside our pride and selfishness, so that situations like what is occurring in Gaza will not be necessary.


brooke said...

thanks for this cherice. it is a reminder i desperately needed. anyhow - i hope one day you do feel the call to be a pastor - imho your voice and spirit would benefit anywhere in the world you feel called.

Anonymous said...

"That Friend speaks my mind." Thanks, Cherice.

Gr. Ralph

Martin Kelley said...

Thanks for this Cherice. I've been reading some Friends picking up the megaphone for the predicable political declarations. Obviously the renewed violence and war between forces in Gaza and Israel is terrible and should be stopped but that doesn't tell us what we need to do. We are told we need to love our enemies with the perfect love that Christ gives everyone. It's an impossible directive but that's what we're to do. You can argue that maybe there's a political ramification to this, that if we can love the evil-doers completely we can help understand the temptations that are driving them and help unpack the fear and find a true and ever-lasting conversion of the heart for good. I'm trying and in the meantime I'm pouring prayer for them and for me to find the power to love.

haven said...

Thank you Cherice. It is so difficult yet so important to maintain this witness for peace. I will join you in your prayers for both sides and for yourself that I also might also learn to love in the manner we are called to.