Jesus Christ left a legacy that instills greatness in anyone’s life, whether in this life, or in the life to come. How can one love a person who—not only persecutes him/her—but desires to see him/her dead?
Basically, our Lord and brother Jesus Christ, is regarded as the greatest man who ever lived, because of one reason: He loved and blessed His enemies, even during His humiliation at the cross.
Unfortunately, instead of adopting that principle—and applying it in their own lives, most Christians use Jesus’ experience, as necessitating their adulation of His person. They suppose Jesus desires adulations, before He can approve of one’s Christian standing. But true worship requires application of what Jesus taught:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbour 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 makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”(Matthew 5:43—48) (ESV).
Apparently, this passage of scripture can be assumed as fulfilling all the requirements of Christianity. Possibly, most of those calling themselves ‘Christians’ may not even be aware of the existence of such Scriptures?
I suppose they view Christianity as necessitating obligation to pay tithes—so that the Pastor can be adequately remunerated for his services? Nothing appears as practically wrong with that behaviour—except that there could be some element of deception.
Such behaviour gives those Christians comfort, as—to them—being approved of, by a pastor, enables acceptance by God? The limelight of Christianity seems to be the position of a pastor, whose adulation, in some cases, actually, exceeds that of Jesus. See [Pastor—the centre of all confusion in Christianity].
The fragmentations in Christianity, as characterized in denominationalism, is the only sign—revealing that the above passage of Scripture is foreign to Christians in general. Christians are not different from how everyone behaves in this world.
Yet in the above Scripture, Christ shows exactly what true Christianity is all about. This is the time to stop misleading each other with lies. What does Jesus mean: And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?(Verse 47).
Let us be honest; is loving one’s enemies, not viewed as far-fetched—among most Christians? Can an SDA Church member feel comfortable—treating a Catholic Church member, in the same way that he/she treats another SDA member, or vice versa? Let alone, equally treating those that Christians describe as “Satanists?”
Can today’s Christians not be categories among the Gentiles, according to Jesus? The problem we have is that we may not be aware that everything said by Jesus is principle—as not to be randomly violated—without consequences. However, I prefer leaving Christians undisturbed, on this episode, for now.
The greatest man who ever lived, loved his enemies and blessed those who cursed Him. He considered His followers as brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:50). If Jesus can be regarded as having been great, His brothers ought to be regarded as equally great. But the greatness of a man is measured by the ability to love one’s enemies.
Nelson Mandela is regarded as having been great, because he expressed love towards his enemies—who incarcerated him in prison for twenty-seven years. His enemies hated him for simply projecting that his fellow black Africans needed to be treated with dignity.
The greatness of Nelson Mandela is not qualified by how many of his white enemies were killed by him, in revenge. It is also not qualified by how he required that his former enemies pay back the ill-treatment that he received in prison.
The greatness of Nelson Mandela is in how he managed to love those with whom he had good reasons to hate—yet he continued to love them—even without them showing remorse, for what they did to him.
How does loving one’s enemies make one great? Loving one’s enemies is not something that can be achieved technically. One cannot just decide and declare loving enemies, because the Bible says so. Loving enemies comes with knowledge and understanding. See [Seven obstacles of Christian faith].
The person sees the best in the enemy—thereby choosing to ignore whatever would be unacceptable about him/her. In other words, the greatness of a person comes with fully understanding the behaviour of the enemy. The adversarial person would only be clogged in the web of confusion.
The enemy may not understand the behaviour of the great person, but the great person understands the enemy—through the principle of empathy. Loving a person’s enemies cannot be applied in the way that laws are applied. See [Does God need zealous warriors in His Army].
The ability to love one’s enemy comes with an ability to understand the mind faculty of the person projected as an enemy. The starting point is in appreciating that the adversarial person—as a human being—was created in God’s image—and therefore, is basically as good as God is good.
Without that understanding, it is impossible to love one’s enemy. One may gnash his/her teeth—at the same time declaring to love the enemy—in order to fulfill what Jesus commanded. But that would be fooling oneself, in the same way that hypocrites do.
The love of one’s enemies comes with understanding. If the person is basically good, because he/she was created in God’s image, what makes him kill others? When dealing with causes, you ignore the effects, which will vanish as soon as the causes are dealt with. This is a simple principle.
A person becomes great, not by declaration, but by the behaviour that makes him/her different from his/her opponents. The great person seeks to understand the enemy’s point of view before entertaining being understood. Otherwise, it is impossible to love that enemy without understanding the one intended to be loved. See [The risk of nuclear war in face of Altruism].
A free man is able to experience anything, yet able to cause only that which the other person is able to experience. This is why Jesus Christ never compelled anyone to obey Him. He made a difference among the deplorable sinners. His vilest enemies were the Pharisees and teachers of the Law
However, He did not seek to avoid them, because of their enmity against Him. Regarded as one of the Jews, Jesus acknowledged the books of the Law and prophecy. He actually attended their synagogues every Sabbath, as a matter of custom, not according to the pattern of Law-keeping.
Some people attempt to reason out that Jesus attended synagogues on Sabbath days, in order to keep the Sabbath-keeping Law. All this emanates from misunderstanding that principle is senior to Law-keeping. Jesus was guided by Principle. See [Principle is senior to rules and regulations].
The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law hated Jesus. But, when applying the principle of loving the enemies, Jesus attended their Synagogues every Sabbath. He loved them, to the point of being with them at their most convenient time—teaching them Godly principles.
These were Law-keepers who would not miss attending Synagogues on Sabbath days. For Jesus, attending those Synagogues was mostly opportunistic—as to confront those worshipers with the truth. He sought to help them understand, because he loved them.
But they hated Him most—as to have desired that He were not a Jew. While He castigated them, left, right and centre, for being hypocrites—Jesus regarded them as God’s people, who needed to be salvaged from their sin.
They did not understand Jesus, but Jesus understood them fully—because He was a great man. There was nothing that could have prevented Jesus to establish different Synagogues. Having realised their hardheartedness, Jesus could have just decided to establish fresh synagogues, to cater for those agreeing with Him.
Most of those Jews would have welcomed His decision to move out of their midst. However, that would have been succumbing to what they wanted—with the consequence of enhancing confusion. As the one representing the light, Jesus could not have moved out.
Jesus had the truth that sustained Jewish religion—more than the Jews thought they understood Jewish religion. Jesus was preoccupied with the principle of loving one’s enemies—entitling Him to love them—even more than those who supported Him. See [Being told you are wrong is a blessing of highest order].
The fact that Jesus established the New Testament, does not mean that the New Testament is divorced from the Old Testament. The New Testament stems from the Old Testament, so that the Old Testament cannot operate independently of the New Testament, which superseded the Old.
The enemies of Jesus were not necessarily the traditional Law-breakers. Jesus’ enemies were the Law-keepers, who could not understand the principle of greatness—as portrayed in loving one’s enemies.
The Law-keepers loved God and their primary aim was to please God. They also desperately needed salvation. The only problem was that they needed that salvation in their own terms, not according to God’s way (Luke 16:16-17).
However, Jesus understood them, even though they did not understand Jesus. On castigating them, Jesus was addressing their error, more than intending to insult them personally—because He understood them.
Jesus genuinely loved those people, as to fully understand their behaviour—including their desire to kill Him. As mentioned earlier, it cannot be possible to love your enemies, if you do not fully understand them. The starting point is in desiring to understand them, more than desiring that they understand you.
One of the reason why Jesus submitted to being killed by those murderers is that He understood the principle of loving one’s enemies. Doing unto others as you like them to do unto you, includes submitting to being killed by them, to enable the fulfilment of their desire to kill you.
Jesus gracefully submitted to their requirement—to fulfill their desire to kill Him. But accomplishing their mission of killing Jesus had to be at God’s timing. They could not kill Jesus before the right time had come.
Retaliation would have reduced Jesus’ greatness. Submitting to being killed by His enemies was due to them not obtaining what they wanted from Jesus. As Jesus could not succumb, on reason of principle—killing Him was their last resort.
We do unto others as we would like them do unto us—but being careful not to succumb on matters of principle. Nelson Mandela could have been killed by his persecutors at Robin Island. But for all those years, they kept hoping that Nelson Mandela could eventually change his mind and succumb to their wishes.
They wanted him to succumb on matter of principle. His refusal to succumb is what led him to suffer in prison for twenty-seven years. As far as Nelson Mandela was concerned, principle was superior to his physical body.
Doing unto others as one would like them do unto one, is on the physical plain. On issues of principle—which are Spiritual—compromising would have also not been in the interest of the prison masters.
This is just as it could not have been in the interest of Jesus’ enemies, had Jesus succumbed, in order to avoid the cross. This is why in His prayer, Jesus kept pleading that they be forgiven, for they did not know what they were doing.
The level of understanding that Jesus had—as to perceive what His tormentors could not perceive—is what sustained His greatness. In the same way, Nelson Mandela refused to succumb to what His prison masters wanted him to do—because he had realized their deficiency in knowledge.
Succumbing would not have been to their best interest. That is exactly what made Nelson Mandela greater than them. The greatness of principle is not on physical plane, but on Spiritual level, which is superior to what is physical.
The Spiritual things are premised on principle, more than the Law—which is premised on what is physical. We talk of loving one another as self—in our language, as we are grounded on what is physical.
However, as soon as one grasps the aspect of principle being senior—the question of loving another person as self, falls out. It is impossible for a person who understands the Godly principle to fail to love another person as self.
This is where the arguments of Law and Grace have arisen, in Christianity. Those people argue on the basis of not understanding matters of principle, which leave a person loving unconditionally. See [Unpacking the myth about Law and Grace].
When Jesus was teaching His listeners to love their enemies, He was teaching on matters of principle—which is senior to Law-keeping. A Law-keeper gets obsessed with the desire to effect justice—leaving him/her unable to appreciate grace. In Jesus, Law-keeping becomes too junior, to talk about.
In other words, it is not possible for a Law-keeper to appreciate the principle of loving another person as self. This is because, Law-keeping always demands that justice should be effected. This is why Jesus had to die on the cross—to nullify what the law demanded—qualifying grace, to then become senior to Law-keeping.
Otherwise, we would have all remained under the curse of the Law, because of Adam’s sin. It takes a person of highest quality of integrity, to risk his own life, in order to save His fellow man. In the case of Nelson Mandela, it would not have been worth it—to spend twenty-seven years of incarceration.
Nelson Mandela was a qualified Lawyer. If apartheid had not allowed Him to practice in South Africa, it would still have been possible for him to practice elsewhere. However, principle could not allow Nelson Mandela to do that.
It was not about his personal freedom, but the freedom of humanity that sustained his resolve. Succumbing would not have been good for Him. It would not have been good for His prison masters. It would also not have been good for humanity. I suppose the same applied, to those who sacrificed their own interests—pursuing vicious struggles against slavery.
Greatness does not allow a person to think about his own interest. That person applies principle, which is senior to his personal interests. Had it not been the sin of Adam at the Garden of Eden, principle would have been what would guide humanity. The catastrophes known to exist, would not have been heard of.
Those associated with greatness are currently very few in numbers. The majority—sustained by Law-keeping—assume that protecting their own interests is what makes them great. They actually despise those committing themselves to accept the calling to attend to issues of principle.
However, survival is associated with issues of principle, more than issues of Law-keeping—which attends to self-centredness. Yet principle attends to the question of what one gives to his/her fellow humanity (Altruism). Rather than what one can get from his/her fellow humanity (self-centredness).
The change of mind-set could transform everything to the reality of what was in God’s mind when he created humanity in His own image. Law-keeping is designed for the shallow-minded, not those associated with greatness. See Moral law is for the dead people].
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from 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 reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99