I received an email this week asking those on the email list to call for the firing of a certain person who had shown blatant discrimination and unjustified anger, even hatred toward a public official. I couldn't click on the link. I just couldn't do it. It seemed to me to smack of everything Jesus and the Bible teaches against. Wouldn't this response just be playing the tit for tat game? Taking vengeance into our own hands? Repaying evil with evil? An eye for an eye?
Jesus said, "You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but I tell you not to resist an evil person . . . You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,' but I say to you, 'Love your enemies; bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." That ethic of the Kingdom of God goes against every grain in our bodies and souls! But it is the new life of the spirit. This is the "newness of life" God is calling us to. Who of us who call ourselves believers in and followers of Jesus Christ do this? Those verses in Matthew 5:38-48 are powerful and world changing.
I had to wonder, what if the generator of that email had asked his following to pray for that person instead of calling for her to lose her job? The Bible tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (II Corinthians 10:5)—not these earthly means of going about things, not looking at the natural. We are to look at the spiritual aspect of things. Do we care for this person or do we just want to see her put in her place? We are not to avenge ourselves, for vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19). Instead, we are to seek good things for others, even those who hurt us and do evil to us (Romans 12:17).
I fear we too often fight like the world. Jesus has demonstrated to us that love is the most powerful weapon in the world. Love is more powerful than hatred. Paul calls us to repay evil with good; by doing so, we overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). Good is more powerful than evil. We're also told that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Jesus used that sword against the devil with complete effectiveness. Truth is more powerful than lies. It just means that if we are going to see these things prevail, we are going to have to suffer—like Jesus. Peter tells us "to this we are called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." (I Peter 2:21)
When Paul faced antagonism and hatred and persecution, he, like Jesus, asked people to pray. Consider these examples:
Romans 15:30-31: "Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe . . ."
Philippians 1:12-26: "But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. [How's that for New Life-Kingdom thinking?!] For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. [When life and death are equally advantageous, no one and nothing can truly harm us; fear has been robbed of its power.] Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
Colossians 4:2-3: Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains.
II Thessalonians 3:1-5: Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.
I fear that we have more confidence in ourselves, in our political system, and in our own words and powers of manipulating circumstances through joint pressure than we do in God. With all the antagonism in our country in the past few weeks, with all the venom that has been spewed, with the deep divide in worldview and the vastly different solutions to the problems in our country and the world, should we not see these things as a call to prayer? Let us not jump into the fray, fighting as the world does. Rather let us get on our knees and implore the God of heaven to change hearts. For that is where the real problem and battle lie, and only He can transform a heart. If God could change the heart of Paul who was hell-bent on destroying Christians, couldn't He change the hearts of those who are working against Him today?
When once we all come under the rule of Christ, striving together for the Kingdom of God, desiring to honor Him, will there not be unity? Will there not be love and restoration and reconciliation? How much better it would be to ask God to change hearts so that the gifts and the resources each person has could be channeled into seeking the good of all. Wouldn't that be a greater victory?
Let us pray.