As you might expect, I’ve been paying fairly close attention to the news today. One thing that struck me was Tony Blair’s speech at midday, given from the G8 Summit in Gleneagles.
He started by saying that his “thoughts and prayers” were with the victims and their families, and went on to finish by condemning the terrorists. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims” seems a fairly common formula – I’ve heard politicians use it after tragedies in the past, and several times over the course of today. And I’ve certainly heard no expressions of concern for the terrorists.
At the time, I thought this was very statesmanlike. However, prompted by an email from a complete stranger, I looked again at the Bible. And I found that during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
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 sons 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 brothers, 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)
I think that’s massively challenging – it certainly challenged me. I hope any Christians reading will feel able to take time to pray for the people who perpetrated these acts – because even they are not beyond the concern or reach of God, and what they have done cannot be too serious for Christ’s death to pay for it, if they ask him.
Of course, the clearest ever demonstration of the principle of “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” was on a hill outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago, when “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.
When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:33-34)