Righteous men of history have willingly died for righteous causes. Guys like William Wallace charged headlong into certain death, with courage and great strength in the midst of fear and darkness. MLK was killed by a man filled with anger in his heart against a man of peace and love. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Lincoln and JFK were assassinated. These men and women had great ideas, ideas that could inspire the world to change, and that is what scared their killers enough to tear them down, thinking that their idea would die with the man or woman. Jesus on the other hand, born of the seed of God, not from the seed of Adam, did something a little different. He died for an unrighteous cause; the cause being you and I.
Romans 5 tells us that when we were powerless, Jesus died for the ungodly. It is rare for anyone to die for a righteous person, yet for a good person or good cause someone might dare to die. But here is how God’s love is different. While we were still sinners, still enemies of God, he died for us. When is it ever been honorable to die for one’s enemy? How is that even possible?
Let me tell you this, that the way of the world is different than the kingdom of God. In the world it is good and honorable to fight for freedom, with violence, or nonviolence, it is still a fight. Anger is still welling up in our hearts. More often than not our non-violent demonstrations are violence in disguise, violence in our hearts. Maybe I don’t hit with my fist, but I hit them where it hurts the most, right at the center of personhood.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What? How? . Jesus said, “for if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it’s dry?” They made fun of him on the cross, saying, he saved others, why not save himself if he is indeed the chosen one. The temptation in the desert echoes in our ears here, when Jesus was tempted to demonstrate his power to serve himself instead of living in obedience to the Father’s will.
Jesus showed us on the cross; when he prayed to God, forgive them all because they are not even aware of what they are actually doing. Paul said in Galatians, that the flesh and the Spirit are in opposition. What the flesh wants is contrary to what the Spirit desires. Jesus understood this well, and thus understood that if man does not yield to the Spirit, then they won’t be able to accept the gift of his love. This didn’t stop him. Our crucifying of him did not stop him. He knew and had practiced the way of obedience his whole life, even unto his death for his enemies.
Let’s imitate Jesus, follow him with our cross, and dare to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. And I am not just talking about the murders of the world, or the politicians, or the terrorists. Jesus is also asking us to pray for those close to us, our neighbors, people at work we don’t get along with, the family member who has betrayed us, and the thief who took what didn’t belong to him. Jesus, thank you that the cross changes my reality, and that you do give me the power, not to curse, but to love and to pray. Thank you that I am not longer your enemy, but a beloved child of God. Thank you for showing us how and giving us the power by your Spirit to do it.