“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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 causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
–Jesus; The Gospel of Matthew, 5:43-47
In Colorado, a 10-year old girl, Jessica Ridgeway, is kidnapped and, days later, found dead in a field. The community is deeply shaken and scared. The killer is still at large.
We are told by Jesus to love this killer.
How can this be? By societal norms all would agree that the act itself was monstrous; many would call the killer a monster. Yet, Christians are called to respond by loving this person, the killer of a child. It seems to make no sense; surely Jesus is mistaken, He was really talking about your average run-of-the-mill enemy, right? the kind of person that just insults us or perhaps the neighbor who has a dog that barks all night. He didn’t really mean to love this sort of person, did He? Certainly they are beyond our love; only God could possibly love such a being.
Love the sinner, hate the sin, isn’t that our standard Christian response? Hating the sin is easy; loving the sinner is fine in theory, but it seems hard in this particular case to be able to love the person who would perpetrate such a horrific crime and inflict such pain on the young girl’s parents and the community at large. How does one love while simultaneously hoping the killer is caught and punished? And we are commanded to do more than love, we must also pray for this killer. Certainly there can be no harder command of Jesus than His command that we love and pray for this kind of neighbor.
These kinds of questions have led me to wonder about the true nature of love as God intended it, and not as our culture has corrupted it (e.g., reducing love to sex or tolerance). Maybe by understanding how to love and pray for this killer as God would have me I can better understand what He means when He says to love Him with all that I am and to love my neighbor, including the terrorists, my literal neighbors, and my family members as I love myself.
If you are following along, I’m going to try to keep the individual posts of my journey through this shorter; however, they may be more frequent because I want to work through some of what I’ve been reading, and this is my means to do so.