Good Friday’s Holy Week reflection by Patrick Evans on the subject of love.
A new commandment I give to you, love one another as I have loved you’ John Ch 13 v34 ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ‘ Mt Ch 5
Jesus’ teaching is clear; held in God’s love we are called to reflect his love for all even those who oppose our most cherished ideals. Loving is not to be confused with liking. Thank God for all those who love us and whose love has seen us through all weathers. Called to love all includes those who infuriate us, with whom we fundamentally disagree and those we might term our enemies. A minimum requirement of loving someone is that we should understand how they see things. Often we will still have to oppose them. Yet we should not stop caring for their good.
We know how hard it can be to love another. It’s difficult enough sometimes with people we know, let alone people far away who inflict untold sufferings on others, who seem to have lost sight of human decency, justice or the worth of human life. The suffering of the people of Ukraine is almost unbearable to watch. Our love for them is shown in the way we have responded to their needs, in donations, hospitality, food, shelter and medical equipment and in prayerful solidarity. But how on earth do we seek to love Putin and his inner circle? Perhaps understand the history of Russia, the corruption of power, glimpse how such evil flourishes and pray that hearts may be turned to God’s ways of peace and justice.
How can we care for others good while opposing them? Loving can be really hard.
Words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer pastor and theologian ‘Love asks nothing in return but seeks those who need it…Who deserves our love more than our enemy?’ But Bonhoeffer, who wrote so movingly about love of enemies, was faced with a traumatic decision when he was challenged to support a plot to kill Hitler. He did support the plot almost at the risk of his own soul, certainly at the risk of his life. He was imprisoned and executed. I think that Bonhoeffer joined the plot to kill Hitler because of the appalling suffering Hitler was causing for millions of others. There is a rabbinical saying ‘whoever is merciful to the cruel will end by being indifferent to the innocent’. Tough decisions are to be faced in loving your enemies.
How does Jesus face his tormentors? We stay beside the cross as Jesus the human face of God’s love is crucified.
A prayer written by an unknown prisoner in Ravensbruck concentration camp and left by the body of a dead child. ‘Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have bought thanks to this suffering…our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage and generosity, the greatness of a loving heart which has grown out of all this and when they come to judgement let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness’.
The courage of loving prayer.
‘Father grant us such a vision of your love in life and on the cross and such an understanding of the needs of our society that we may bring the two together for the healing of your world through the fire of your spirit and in the name of Jesus. Amen