By Andrew T. Holm
ChristianWeek Columnist | July 25, 2016
The world is in bad shape. It seems like every time I turn on the TV or read a news article online, I’m faced with another tragedy or senseless act. Even the local crime rate seems to have escalated.
As I read each story and witness the pain, I’m left to respond in some way. It’s difficult, however, to find words or even manage emotions. I’ll be honest, it’s easier when the tragedy or crime is at a distance, but the reality of the pain and the thoughts of a potential parallel situation, are difficult to absorb.
How do we process this? How do we respond? What if it becomes personal?
Jesus gave us a clear teaching: don’t fight hate with hate; respond with love.
Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Love stops hate
Leviticus 24:1-20[i] states, “eye for an eye.” A simple judicial system of one for one. But by the time Jesus was on the scene, the Pharisees were allowing retaliation through this law. In reality, the law was restrictive just as much as it was prescriptive. They would have thought twice before committing an act in the first place because they knew the same would be done to them. If violence did take place, there was no room for escalating violence because the law limited the response to what was originally done to them.[ii]
We need to insert a restrictive nature into the 21st century and respond with submission and selflessness. If we are willing to give up our rights (what we deserve) for the sake of kingdom growth, love will disempower hate (Matthew 6:38f). With that said, Jesus is not calling us to pacifism; rather, a personal call to selflessness.
2. Love is what God’s children are all about
Followers of Jesus should look different from those who don’t follow Jesus. How do we look different? By loving instead of hating.
Jesus reminded his followers: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:44-45). The connection is even clearer when Jesus defines the greatest commandment as loving God and loving others (22:37-40).
3. Love results in kingdom growth
Paul and Silas found themselves beaten and imprisoned for casting out a demon out of a woman. As they were praying and singing hymns, an earthquake shook the prison and all the prisoners became free. The guard was about to kill himself because he thought all the prisoners we’re set free on his watch. But, Paul called out to him saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”
As a result, the guard and his family experienced salvation, were baptised, and even helped feed and clean up Paul and Silas.[iii] They had every “right” to run. After all, they were wrongly beaten and imprisoned. Instead, they responded in love and helped build the Kingdom.
We all experience hate or are otherwise wronged. Sometimes it’s personal, other times the world experiences tragedy and loss together. One thing is guaranteed – it will happen. It will especially happen to Christians who choose the “narrow gate” of discipleship (Matthew 7:13-14; 2 Timothy 3:12). The question is, when we’re harmed, will we respond with love?
The issue we see most often is our reaction to something bad. When we experience hate and violence, our initial reaction tends to be weighted towards making sure “they pay” for what they’ve done or are doing. It could be as simple as a burglary to as painful as murder. It’s even possible to be hated for having a differing belief. No matter the case, Jesus is telling us to show others love instead of retaliation.
Loving those who disagree with us.
Loving those who wrong us.
Loving those who attack us.
Loving those who commit crimes against us.
Retaliation and hate are not kingdom principles, but love will lead to Kingdom growth.
Love will help bring unity.
Love will help bring forgiveness.
Love will show others we are children of God.
Love will extend grace towards people searching for God.
As the world continues to fall apart, we can be sure that Jesus’ imminent return (at any moment) is closer than ever. We can’t sit back, we have to be the Church. The world is counting on faithful Christians to be the salt of the earth and a light pointing towards Jesus.
How do you respond to hate, violence and wrongdoing? Will you let love make a difference?
[i] Other similar texts are found in Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 19.
[ii] D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 52.
[iii] Acts 16:16-40.