In the most radical, counter-culture ethic ever proclaimed – “The Sermon on the Mount” found in the Gospel of Matthew (ch. 5-7) – Jesus taught the world how to be righteous in our love.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5.43-44, TNIV)
Most of us believe such a moral demand to be a nice sentiment. But most of us have also believed at one time or another that loving your enemies and praying for your persecutors is unrealistic in the real world, especially when we realize that it is impossible to love and pray for such people when we wish ill on them (and perhaps even actively try to gain revenge).
In fact, just imagine praying for someone who has done harm to you or seeking what is best for someone who despises you. Sounds completely absurd! Imagine feeling compassion and remorse for someone who has just murdered part of your family. This sounds too ridiculous to be true in our world… except it is true.
Rather than dwell on the victims — though this is a close-knit community, where few are strangers — Amish residents spoke of their concern for Roberts’ family; their sorrow that a man could become so unhinged, so alienated from the Lord.
“I wish someone could have helped him out, poor soul. It’s
obvious that something was troubling him,” said Steve, a 54-year-old carpenter who, like many here, would not give his full name. Of the tragedy, he would say only that it was “uncalled for,” and unexpected.
An Amish woman who gave her name as Irene also expressed compassion for the gunman. “I am very thankful,” she said, “that I was raised to believe you don’t fight back. You should forgive.” (This story appeared in the L.A. Times, click on my link to see the full story)
I think we all can learn a lot from the way this Amish community is responding to such a horrible tragedy and the way they are tangibly loving their enemy and praying for their persecutor. The ethic of Jesus is not a goal to lofty for the real world, it is just a matter whether we want to continue living out this fallen real world or live in the real world that the grace of God will allow us to become. May we all learn to live out this righteous love in our own lives!