Pray for the perpetrator, not the victim

This world insists that a person who harms another deserves to be punished. However, the person who harms another subtracts his/her dignity, thereby needing prayer, more than the harmed person. Abel was murdered by Cain. Yet, of the two brothers, Abel died at an advantage, rather than Cain.

Cain lived longer, physically, but that did not entitle him to an advantage, in terms of his spiritual condition. A tree planted to produce fruits survives only as it continues to produce fruits. However, when stunted to be unable to produce fruits, the plant deserves uprooting. Any harmful act committed against another person leaves a spiritual gap that needs feeling, to regain normal living.

The spiritual gap widens, in the event that the person attempts to justify the evil conduct. After committing adultery with Uriah’s wife, King David sought to cover up his transgression by pulling Uriah from the war front. He intended for Uriah to sleep with his wife. Thereby, creating an impression that the conceived child in his adulterous act would be assumed to belong to Uriah.

Uriah viewed the idea of being pulled out of the war front, for the sake of sleeping with his wife, as inconsistent with logic. How could he come to enjoy sleeping with his wife, when his comrades needed him most in war trenches? He managed to persuade the King to reverse his decision. However, David still needed to cover up the committed sin.

What later came to his mind was to ensure that Uriah perished in the war. This was assumed as would free him from the guilt of adultery. He would then marry Bathsheba without having to feel guilty for the disgusting sin. Therefore, David arranged a scheme, instructing the commander to place Uriah at the forefront of the fiercest battle. This arrangement would conveniently ensure Uriah’s death in the battle.

The sin of adultery led to David committing the murder of an innocent person. The spiritual condition of Uriah was safe, but David was exposed to breaking his relationship with God. Contrary to most people’s assumption, the conduct of evil does not leave an evildoer at an advantage. It leaves him completely devastated and haunted. David assumed having succeeded in conniving to murder Uriah, but spiritually multiplying his sinful condition.

It was only after God’s intervention that David was rescued from such a debilitating condition. God confronted him through Prophet Nathan. This enabled David to come back to his senses. He could not repay Uriah for his sinful conduct, but as having died, Uriah was safe. Let us now explore some possibilities of what Uriah could have done, after discovering that the King had shamefully committed this sinful conduct.

Any of the three possibilities could have transpired. The bitterness, arising from his discovery of what the King had done, could have harmed his spiritual condition. The second possibility would have been to engage the King in communication so that the matter could be amicably resolved. The third possibility could have been the wife deciding to leave him for the King so that Uriah moves on with his life.

The first possibility commonly takes place with most men. Either they resolve to commit murder or commit suicide. As unable to access justice to be meted against the King, Uriah may have decided to commit suicide, or kill his wife. This implies succumbing to the sinfulness of David. This reveals how contagious sinful acts can be, and how, without Godly intervention, humanity is affected.

The second possibility suggests arriving at an amicable resolution, after engaging in effective communication. A remorseful confession with acceptable resolutions could ameliorate the damage caused. Through forgiveness, the matter might then be amicably shelved and forgotten about.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8 NIV).

This suggests the restoration of relationships, describing workable Christian conduct. This cannot be acceptable to ordinary humans, but it is the most workable conduct that minimizes the effects of sinful conduct. Living a life of forbearance is the only way toward spiritual health.

The third possibility is where the perpetrator avoids remorsefulness. The wife may, actually, decide to elope with the adulterer. Such conduct may expose the perpetrator to spiritual condemnation. The victim would have been considered prejudiced, physically, but possibly strengthened, spiritually.

The victim may go further than forgiving the perpetrator but also praying for the perpetrator. The prayer would be as effective as bringing the perpetrator back to his senses, repenting from his sinful conduct. This displays a spiritually mature Christian, as fulfilling the teachings of Jesus.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV).

The human ego cannot accept this kind of behaviour. But this is the only behaviour that guarantees a person to become God’s child. A person who applies the principle of loving his enemies is God’s child. That person relegates himself to the position of being commonly despised.

Our physical nature is opposed to our spiritual nature. The spiritual condition is elevated when the physical nature is relegated. Ill-treatment by another person can be dehumanizing. But after dehumanization comes spiritual elevation. The dehumanization comes in many forms, including being murdered.

It is true that no person feels comfortable being ill-treated by another. Anyone suggesting being degraded by another is acceptable would be lying. This projects a titanic battle, won by prayer and fasting. As long as not willing to be a laughing stock, one would be yet to reach an acceptable Christian level.

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:37-39 NIV).

If the Master of the entire Universe, could experience such a feeling, what more an ordinary person in this world? Jesus paved the way toward salvation. He never intimated that this way would be easy. Except that success is guaranteed, when willing to follow in His footsteps.

Christianity attracts huge numbers, but few understand what Christianity entails. The challenge is in dealing with those violating our human rights. The instruction to love and pray for those blatantly violating one’s dignity cannot be a casual matter but portrays true Christianity.

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:25-33 NIV).

It takes one having become willing to forsake everything, to meet the standard. The most important realization is that the necessity of prayer is mustering the ability to forgive the perpetrator. This world suggests doing so, as cowardice. However, the opposite is true, when aware that the spiritual battle is won by suppressing the physical nature.

Willingness to allow the other person, to secure an advantage, grants spiritual power. Physical pain can be traumatizing and devastating. But that is what strengthens the spiritual condition. People can talk about the niceties of Christianity, but as long as skirting the aspect of loving enemies, the longer way remains ahead.

Paul confirmed this challenge in his Galatians epistle. Adopting Christianity engages in a spiritual battle, where succumbing is not an option. One cannot engage in a spiritual battle pitted against the physical flesh and succumb.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:14-18 NIV).

Ordinary people struggle to understand the significance of not being under the law. Others even suggest that Paul implies deliberately committing evil, as one not under the law. However, the condition of not being under the law includes loving and praying for the perpetrator.

The law demands justice against violators of the law. The spirit allows the violator to go unpunished. While, commonly, declaring idolization and respecting Jesus, most people do not appreciate that loving and praying for one’s enemy is applicable.

Jesus is Lord; but not by virtue of Him having subdued his enemies, by force, demonstrating His superiority. Jesus is Lord because he abased himself to sinners, seemingly taking advantage of Him. Imagine the submission that included being crucified ahead of the most notorious criminal on the land, Barabbas. This was unheard of. But represents how Jesus attained victory.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:5-12 NIV).

Paul’s exhortation is to those having committed themselves to follow the teachings of Jesus. Ordinary people cannot accept this teaching, as, humanly speaking, it violates the principle of justice. Jesus received the crown after degrading Himself, rather than as a result of subduing His enemies. This is what Paul encourages Christians to do.

The perpetrator may be boastful, claiming to have outwitted the victim, in whatever the cause of contention. But that is what justifies the crown to be with Jesus. A Christian is above the condition of humiliation and ridicule. Winning is possible, as long as remaining composed, even at the point of death.

Christianity is a battle between pride and humility. A person loses, at the point of succumbing to the instinct for retaliation. That Christian wins when accepting to be deprived and losing everything that belongs to him. This is a peculiar battle, in that the winner is the loser, rather than the other way round. This calls for a review of one’s Christian conduct.

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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