“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34 (NIV)
We’re coming up to July 1st 2016. It’s a date of which nobody has a reason to be proud, because it marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. That battle was fought at such terrible cost that it has come to symbolise the tragic futility of the First World War; the first day of a conflict that lasted four and a half months, during which it claimed one million casualties from British and Commonwealth countries alone.
What a terrible occasion to remember. And why should it occupy a place in the Day-by-Day series? Because it provides an opportunity to reflect upon the human cost of conflict and to hope for a more peaceful world.
We human beings are not very good at living at peace with one another. One of the sons of Adam and Eve killed his brother, Abel, because of jealousy. And so it went on. In both the Old and New Testament times this was how the descendants of Adam sorted out their differences. Brothers and sisters at loggerheads with one another.
James, in his letter to the churches in New Testament times, put his finger on the problem. He wrote, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” (James 4:1-2) And he was writing to Christians!
Jesus taught about how we should respond to this sort of conduct—to people who treat us badly because we have something that they don’t possess. And that may not be just physical things. It might include prestige and recognition that they don’t enjoy. Whatever it is, we have it and they don’t. In His sermon on the mount Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) That’s hard. Our natural reaction is to fight back—to retaliate. But that’s not the Christian way.
When you think about it, Jesus’ words make sense. If someone treats us badly and we retaliate, he or she is going to fight back. And then so do we, but worse. And the cycle continues without ending unless someone else intervenes to stop it. The fighting might end, but the hostile feelings remain.
But what happens if the injured person does not retaliate? Does not fight back? The cycle stops. How wonderful! And if the injured person does something good to the person who hurt him, that’s even better. And what did Jesus tell us to do in ‘The Lord’s Prayer’? “[Father] forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
This world would be a much better place if people did not put themselves first. Did not fight to get what someone else possesses. Did not retaliate. Unfortunately we have to wait until Jesus Christ returns before this becomes a reality.
I’m not going to finish with a prayer this time. I’m going to conclude with a line from a book by J. Jackson and Sy Miller. It would be good if we made it into a prayer—maybe even into a daily prayer.
Let There be Peace on Earth: And Let it Begin with Me.
Study by Cristopher and Hilary Reeve
Blean Village Hall
CANTERBURY CT2 9JA
Saturday 11.30 AM
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