Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-48, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
The news from Orlando is appalling and heartbreaking. A madman unleashes his hatred on unsuspecting people in a night club, killing 49 and injuring 53 others. I can’t imagine the pain of those who lost family members or friends in this barrage of violence. The pain will reverberate for years to come.
Debates are already heated about how to prevent this kind of tragedy. Some advocate stiffer gun control laws. Others argue stronger limitations on immigration. This most violent mass shooting in our history has resurrected arguments about solutions.
I don’t know what the best approach is, but I do know this—Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for them. This doesn’t mean that we look the other way where crime and terrorism are concerned—Paul made it clear that government authorities are appointed by God to establish justice. Romans 13:4 says that authorities “…are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” God uses those in positions of authority as tools to enforce the law and to punish those who do wrong. So we should pray for wrongdoers to be brought to justice and stand behind those who enforce the law.
But the challenge for many of us is found in Jesus’ phrase—“love your enemies.” This means we’re called to love members of Isis and Isis sympathizers. The paradox is that we may have to fiercely resist enemies like Isis but at the same time ask for the grace to love them. We should pray for the hearts of terrorists all over the world to be changed by the power of the gospel.
The challenge may also be to love those who were victims of this horrific attack—members of the gay community in Orlando. For many believers, homosexuals might also be described as the ‘enemy’ because of their disregard for God’s law. But here, too, the challenge is found in Jesus’ phrase—“love your enemies.” Jesus’ heart is broken by the sin of those who live a homosexual lifestyle—but his heart is also broken by what happened to them Sunday morning.
As Christians, we’re called to love our enemies. This includes those whose lifestyles are sinful. This means we should be praying for the families of the fallen. We should look for ways to love gays in our community. This doesn’t mean yielding our values or convictions, but it does mean we seek to be generous and merciful and kind and caring to those who are hurting. Some ostensible believers have been ugly and unloving in the wake of this episode. Some have insinuated that the victims had it coming. This mean-spirited attitude is exactly the opposite of Christ’s command. So as you pray this week, pray for your ‘enemies.’ Pray for those who persecute you. Pray for those who inflict pain on American citizens. Pray for those whose lifestyle violates God’s will. Pray for yourself, that your own heart will be marked by love—even for your enemies.