Shining like stars: How to love those who hate you
When Christians are attacked, Jesus calls us to respond with love. That's not easy.
A couple of years ago I actually got to meet with some persecuted Christians in Egypt.
We were meant to go to a city called Minya, but we couldn’t go because there had been over 60 churches that had been attacked and burnt down.
And I thought, if I was a Christian in Egypt, how would I respond this?
How would I feel if someone did this to my church? If my local church was burnt to the ground how would I feel? Would I feel scared? Vulnerable? Hateful? Would I want to get revenge and burn down their building? Would I be angry at God for letting this happen? Would I feel like my expectations of God weren’t being met?
Would I feel unloved. Would I feel hopeless?
But this is how the church in Egypt responded.
They made an announcement to the men who did this and said, “We forgive the men who did this. We love our enemies.”
More persecution, more love
Six months after we were in Egypt, there were 21 Egyptian Christians who were kidnapped by ISIS. They were taken down onto a beach. And because they were followers of Jesus, there on that beach, they were killed.
And once again I expected the Egyptian church to be angry, to be full of hate and fear.
But immediately after this happened, a pastor in Egypt said this.
From the Egyptian church to ISIS: we love you and have pity on you, and pray that God may open your eyes so that you can see the true light in Jesus Christ.We’re not intimidated by your threats. Death is a vanquished enemy for us, vanquished by the power of The Christ, in his resurrection from the dead. We are not armed and we’re not militant but our prayers are stronger than all your weapons.
That’s gutsy right?
This church in Egypt, we could totally understand they could say God hadn’t met their expectations. But in the end, they don’t blame God. They actually boast about his love!
“But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:11
Now that is living transformed by love and hope in Jesus.
How will you respond?
I don't know what kind of opposition you're going to face for following Jesus.
You might be teased. You might be left out. You might be ridiculed. Or you might be persecuted like our Egyptian brothers and sisters.
If you are facing threats of violence or are being bullied for your faith, then you should tell someone. Don't be afraid to get help if you are in danger.
But whatever you face, remember that Christ calls us to honour him in how we treat our enemies.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. – Luke 6:32-36 NIV
Pray that God will give you a hope that’s so unshakable, so fixed and anchored, that you can trust him even in the hardest times.
And pray that his love and hope will transform your heart to love him more and to love others as he loved you. As you do, you will shine like stars in the darkness of our world.
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