Two package bombs killed a teenager and wounded two women this week in Austin, Texas. Investigators believe the attacks are linked to a similar bombing that killed a 39-year-old man in Austin earlier this month. Given the victims' races, it's possible that the bombings are hate crimes.
In other news, a mother had her legs, her right arm, and the fingers on her left hand removed after she contracted sepsis in an English hospital. Officials later admitted that medical staff did not recognize the warning signs of her infection. She is now suing the hospital.
And a match between two soccer teams in Greece was suspended when the owner of one of the teams stormed onto the field while armed with a gun. He complained to a referee about a disallowed goal, though he never drew his weapon. Once the gun was identified, however, the game was suspended.
If someone passed a law that conflicts between people could no longer be reported in the news, there would be little news to report.
Imagine a world where everyone chose to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). But there are two sides to this commandment: loving our neighbors enough to do only what is best for them and loving our neighbors when they do what is evil to us. Let's consider the latter today.
Who has hurt you most recently or most deeply? Have that person in mind as we explore God's word together.
Hating those who hurt us
Jesus described Satan as a "murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44) who came to "steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10). One of his most insidious strategies is to tempt people to hurt us so we will hate them. If we respond in this way, two tragedies result.
One: We hate our enemies when we should pray for them.
Jesus' command was clear and without exceptions: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). The second imperative fulfills the first.
I once heard missionary Tom Doyle make this profound observation: Satan inspired radical Islam at the very time a great spiritual awakening was beginning in the Muslim world. The enemy's strategy was to cause us to hate Muslims when we should be loving them and praying for them.
Tom is exactly right. The last thing Satan wants you to do when someone hurts you is to pray for them. But the more they hurt us, the more they need our intercession.
Two: Our hatred drives a wedge between God and us.
You cannot love me and hate my children and grandchildren. We cannot love God unless we love those he loves.
Satan knows this. He tempts people to hurt us in large part because he wants our pain to turn us from the One who is love (1 John 4:8). But it is when we feel love for God least that we need to worship him most.
How can we escape this vicious cycle?
Loving those who hurt us
As Charles Spurgeon noted, our neighbor's refusal to accept our love leaves "the more room for the heroism of love." The more our neighbor rejects us, the more our love for him pleases our Father.
Scripture offers three steps to such transformational, forgiving, gracious love.
First, spend time loving God.
We cannot give what we have not received. That's why Jesus taught us: "Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34).
Craig Denison notes: "The disciples could only love each other because they had experienced firsthand the incredible love of Jesus. You will not be able to love genuinely if you aren't receiving God's love for yourself. You must take time every day to simply encounter the love of your heavenly Father. His love is designed to lay the foundation for the good works you do."
When you do not feel love for your neighbor, worship your Lord.
Second, pray for his love for this person.
Ask God for his heart, his insight, his wisdom, and his compassion. The Bible teaches that Jesus "knew what was in man" (John 2:25). He knows your neighbor better than you can. And his Spirit will prompt you to say and do what is best.
Third, act as if you loved your neighbor.
Act as if you loved this person, for love is a decision more than it is a feeling. Nowhere does the Bible describe how love feels. That's because love is an action.
Consider Romans 12:10: "Outdo one another in showing honor." "Showing" translates a Greek word meaning to "go before and show the way." Note that the text is obeyed by showing honor, not feeling honor.
In 1949, Albert Einstein stated, "I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth-rocks!"
Learning to love those who hate us is urgent for the survival of our species and the health of our souls. So, let me ask you: Who is the person who hurt you most recently or most deeply?
Take a moment to praise and glorify your Lord, asking him for the love he wants you to give. Next, pray for this person by name, asking God to do what is best for him and for you. Now, ask the Lord what he wants you to do in response to your prayer.
Such gracious love will heal our conflicted culture, one soul at a time-starting with yours.
First published at the Denison Forum.