Praying for Enemies
Whilst out a walk yesterday I passed a house with a flag pole in the garden and a French flag hoisted on the pole. I recall that another house in the area used to have a flag pole with the flag of whichever nation was playing against England hoisted, whether it was in European qualifiers, friendlies, or anything else. I have to say that over the years I see that less as a joke now and more an embarrassment. Whatever did visitors to our town think of this apparent dislike of our English neighbours? Now I know that England played France in a friendly last week but I doubt that has anything to do with the reason for this display of France’s national flag.
Flags are interesting in that they can display our allegiances to our own nation and they can also be displayed to show allegiance with another nation e.g. in Commonwealth Countries. In another example; in Scotland’s history the raising of the French flag would certainly have meant that Scotland had an allegiance with France when both nations regarded England as the enemy. Flags under certain circumstances can inflame historical tension and be problematic. Think for instance of the tension raised by the removal of the Union flag in Northern Ireland in recent times. To quote the BBC’s web site on that matter:-
Parades and flags are important symbols to loyalists, who describe them as expressions of their culture.
People are very guarded and defensive of their culture and at their worst humans will kill one another in acts of atrocities and war to defend or to extend their particular culture or world view.
However, as I continued my walk I passed a school and saw another French flag flying which confirmed what I really knew; that the raising of the French flag was s sign of empathy with our French neighbours over the recent tragic events in Paris. Je Suis Française – I stand with France!
Sad as it may be; the worst of human behaviour seems to bring out the best of human behaviour. When our neighbours are hurt – we stand with them. This is a God given attribute to humanity, I believe, but to love our enemy, such as the terrorists who carried out these acts, is another matter. Forgiveness of this nature can take a long time or may never actually happen at all in some serious instances.
However, Jesus taught us how to behave towards our enemies even if we can’t yet bring ourselves to forgive them. Matthew 5:43 e.g. could be regarded, along with other passages, as a kind of anger management process. Some things can be forgiven and forgotten quickly but the victims of violence towards their family members should not be expected to find peace over such matters quick or easy. It may be that a lifelong practice of praying for blessing on those who hate you and persecute you can bring about true forgiveness in our own hearts and transform the lives of our enemies too. After all, and strange as it may seem, God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. (Matt: 5:45) And as the Song of Solomon 2:4 reminds us: ‘He brought me to the banquet house, and his banner over me was love’. Let love be the flag that flies over us at this time and may God give us the grace to pray for our enemies.
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.
Prayer for Enemies
Jesus, Prince of Peace,
you have asked us to love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for our enemies and those who oppose us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit,
may all people learn to work together
for that justice which brings true and lasting peace.
To you be glory and honour for ever and ever. Amen
Matthew 5:43-48, Modern English Version