Michael Hidalgo


jcrsq-privateIn response to my blog post yesterday (you can read that here) I was told two stories by way of a friend who lives and works in Nigeria. He, and many of his friends, have been the target of violence at the hands of terrorists and extremists.

The first story was about a group of Nigerian pastors. Family members were beaten for their commitment to Jesus, a brother had his tongue cut out so he could no longer speak of Jesus, threats of death and even death itself visited them at the hands of violent men.

My friend asked how he could pray for these pastors and expected them to ask for prayers of protection, and maybe even prayers for vengeance. But that is not what the pastors said.

Rather they said, “We pray for our brothers who have done this violence. We pray they would come to know the love of Jesus.” Notice, they spoke of those who had done violence to them as “brothers.” They saw the enemy the same way they saw themselves.

This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said, “ … love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

The second story he told was about a Nigerian woman who chose to follow Jesus. As a result extremists targeted her. They showed up at her home and beat her. Each time they struck her, she said to them, “I love you and Jesus loves you.” No matter how hard they struck her or how many times, she repeated, “I love you and Jesus loves you.”

They beat her on several occasions. One beating lasted more than 30 minutes. A half-hour of nonstop torture. Still, her capacity to suffer allowed her to say to her attackers, “I love you and Jesus loves you.” Eventually, the men killed her in cold blood in order to silence her commitment to Jesus. Yet, her words echoed in the ears and heart of one of her attackers. He was so moved by her clear love, that in the end he chose to follow Jesus and abandoned his life of violence.

This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said, “ … love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

These stories raise serious questions about the heart and mind of many Christians in America who prefer to shoot first and pray later in response to the cowardly and evil attacks on innocent people around the world. Perhaps it’s time for a gut check. So let’s ask ourselves some questions, shall we?

What if we heeded the words of those Nigerian pastors and prayed for the hearts of our brothers and sisters who insist on violence?

What if rather than become like those who insist on violence, we insisted on love for our enemy and Jesus’ love for them too?

What if we prayed, like Jesus, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing?”

What if our chief desire was to see the good news of Jesus move forward?

Of course, this sounds like rubbish and nonsense, right?

It does, but only if our chief desire is safety and national security, over and above the good news of Jesus. And we can’t have it both ways. After all, it’s hard to imagine the song the angels sang to shepherds about peace on earth moving forward as we bear arms against those who call themselves our enemies.

While we may want to argue for self-defense, and debate whether or not carrying guns can stop those carrying guns let’s remember this: The Christian faith has long claimed the greatest victory ever recorded was Jesus’ death on a Roman cross. He died at the hands of a violent oppressor and did not fight back. This victory is central to the very faith Christians claim.

Yet, many who claim to follow Jesus use rhetoric that sounds as hateful as the rhetoric from terrorists. Many are scapegoating an entire group of people to deal with their fear. Many speak in cold and calculated terms about killing men and women who intend to kill us. Which raises one last question …

How is it that men and women who confess a forgiving, nonviolent Jesus as Lord and Savior, who trust in his death for all people, are so willing – some even seem eager – to kill others?

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