God’s children see things as God sees them. When a God’s child is riled by conditions of lawlessness, God is equally riled. However, God’s child carries the responsibility, as was carried by Jesus on the cross. The observed evilness is still attached to God’s children. Rather than condemn evil-doers, God’s children treat them as themselves, being what differentiates them, from those of this world.
“We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:14-16 NIV).
The responsibility of a Christian is to confront evil, but not in the way that this world confronts evil. The followers of Jesus are instructed to love their enemies, rather than hate them. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray and gave them a specific prayer format, showing them how to pray. Jesus never instructed them to pray for one another but instructed them to pray for their enemies.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:6-13 NIV).
The prayer model does not, in any way, petition God for personal desires, but about God’s will, more than the petitioner’s will. From the prayer model, Jesus showed that God is interested more in the realization of endemic sinfulness, and therefore inviting willingness to forgive. The most difficult thing for human beings is to pray for one’s enemy.
But what one finds difficult to practice requires special attention. Freedom is found in what troubles the flesh, rather than what troubles the spirit. To emphasize this point, Jesus stressed how impossible it is to be forgiven, when unwilling to forgive others.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV).
The above passage shows that one cannot feel safe, as a Christian, as long as surrounded by sinful people. But this does not mean behaving similarly to how those wicked people behave. The person may no longer be involved in sinful activities, as practised by ordinary people.
Becoming God’s child exposes one to being mistreated, by those feeling threatened by God’s child, unnecessarily. Only God’s children may be thrown in prison for offences they never committed. This is what makes them vulnerable as long as those in their environments exist in sinful conditions.
The safest Christians are those who, after repentance, leave their physical bodies to be with Christ. Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 2:21). For a dedicated Christian, dying is advantageous, when compared to continuing in the physical body.
For a baptized person, Christianity cannot be associated with luxury. Jesus advised potential followers to count the costs, before even venturing into Christianity (Luke 14:25-33). This implies a willingness to go through what Jesus went through.
“If you belong to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also” (John 15:19-21 NIV).
This Scripture unveils the hidden truth, unknown by ordinary people. Jesus was hated to the point of being killed on the cross. The crucifixion proves how Jesus was hated, in this world. His enemies were mostly those in authority. Jesus taught with authority, what only He knew to be true. None of His enemies could find wrongness in everything He taught.
The only people who appeared as loving Jesus were those benefitting, mostly from His miraculous healings. Such beneficiaries were commonly regarded as sinners, not befitting of being healed. But, even the majority of such beneficiaries could not be with Jesus, during His darkest hour at the crucifixion.
The truth reveals that Jesus was hated by most people, especially by those in authority. What about today? Has there been any change in that viewpoint? There appear to be millions, if not billions of people claiming to love Jesus, who they do not even know.
The imaginary Jesus, in people’s minds, is the one they pray to, day and night, asking for favours from Him. Those lovers of the unknown Jesus miss the point of not loving the Jesus that was crucified. The truthful Jesus exists physically, having incarnated with many Christians.
That Jesus was the one persecuted by Paul after the imaginary Jesus had left the scene. Paul did not know that he was persecuting Jesus, until a voice came to him, on his way to cause more havoc in Damascus.
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ Who are you, Lord?’ he replied. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied” (Acts 9:3-5 NIV).
This phenomenon revealed the unknown Jesus, even by many, professing to know Him. The only way of loving Jesus is to love those whom one finds uncomfortable to co-exist with. One cannot claim to love Jesus when violating everything that Jesus taught. Regular Church attendance and strictly paying tithes cannot necessarily justify true Christianity.
Jesus said: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” Why? The answer reveals that the same Jesus dwells in those persecuted for no other reason. But, why would the persecutors fail to recognize that it would be Jesus, being persecuted?
The answer affirms that Jesus was also not known by His persecutors. The same calibre of those unable to know Jesus, then, still cannot know Him, today. One cannot claim to love Jesus when finding it uncomfortable to co-exist with another person next door.
“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God yet hate his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:19-21 NIV).
Accepting the principle of Christianity is as dangerous as appreciating that one can be ambushed and assassinated. What exists in that person is not acceptable in this world. It would not be the observed personality, who would be hated, but Jesus, spiritually dwelling in him.
Those claiming to love Jesus, and yet expressing hatred, against those connected to Jesus, are liars. Such people can receive favours from their counterparts but are unacceptable before God. In short, the people who assume having enemies in this world, are not Christians.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12 NIV).
Rejoicing in persecution is not real to most people, although being what ought to be real to those that Jesus calls His brothers. Being hated in this world should not invite animosity, in return. The test of a true Christian is in his ability to love his enemies. Belonging to a group that gives support and comfort, can be dangerous.
There is encouragement when like-minded people interact and share their problems. But that should be exercised without losing focus, where compatriots turnout to become partisan. Enemies still need love and prayer, more than friends need encouragement.
Loving and praying for friends is not what Jesus instructed believers to do. This does not mean hating friends, when loving enemies, but taking it from Jesus who rebuked Peter’s partisan stance. There is a thin line between being partisan and supporting comrades.
“From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and to suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’
“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’ Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:21-26 NIV).
Ordinary people conclude that Peter was rebuked for loving Jesus. However, that love was Satanic, as manifesting in partisanship. If one truly loves Jesus one loves enemies, without wishing them bad spells. To be on the Lord’s side requires venturing into those areas where the physical person feels uncomfortable.
In the early stages of my writing, I eagerly expected to receive support from friends. Not many of them came out in support, according to my expectations. This taught me to appreciate that Christianity is a lonesome journey—portraying what Jesus pronounced: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”
On the night before He was apprehended for prosecution, Jesus’ prayer reveals His inability to transfer His feelings to others. He struggled to try to wake them up, in their drowsy condition. Jesus faced the challenge by Himself. In other words, Jesus denied Himself and took up His cross, but expecting His followers to do likewise.
The worst thing is to feel comfortable, walking the Christian walk, supported by comrades. The example of Judas Iscariot probably helps to discern that worst enemies can be among those with whom one fellowships. The upshot of it is that one should not trust anyone when pursuing Christianity.
Christianity is a lonesome journey, so the only person with whom one would fellowship is Jesus. Close friends may betray one. It is only Jesus who can never betray those truly committed to obeying His commands. Having Jesus on one’s side takes away the worry of not having friends on one’s side.
One can benefit a great deal from friends. But one can also benefit a great deal from those regarded as enemies. Imagine a pagan Governor, insisting on the inscription of Jesus being a Jewish King. Governor Pilate had the truth, not possessed by the Jewish community, making him closer to God than them.
Christians are instructed to shun the partisan idea of love. To impress upon the philosophy of loving the entire humanity, Jesus taught loving and praying for enemies. This is different from loving and praying for friends and relatives, common to ordinary people in this world.
Regardless of how sinful the other person is, the same person would not be different from a Christian. In other words, the wicked person should be loved similarly to how Jesus loves him. Even as they torturously drove nails into His hands, Jesus still loved those characters, thus, sincerely praying for them: “Forgive them, Lord, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
People focus on the pioneer of that philosophy, without realizing being expected to practice that philosophy. All apostles, except John, were similarly treated. I suppose John escaped, by hiding out on the island of Patmos, where God used him for the Book of Revelation.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.
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