Bible Reading: Matthew 5:43-48
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 children 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 own people, what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
Like a lot of people, I remember as a child hiding behind the sofa when the daleks came on ‘Dr Who’ and even now I tend to avoid television programmes where there is a lot of tension. But looking away doesn’t change the outcome, either with the daleks (who were always defeated) or with the horrendous images of the war in Ukraine that we have seen on our screens.
Sometimes we are also tempted to turn away from some of the more uncomfortable teachings of Jesus hoping maybe that, if we turn away, they won't apply. Teachings like, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ I wonder why Jesus said that.
How do you feel about that in your own life?
How would you feel about it if you were Ukrainian?
Jesus knew what it was to be persecuted, both as an individual, persecuted by the religious leaders, and as part of a nation, overrun and controlled by the occupying Roman forces. So I guess he did know what he was talking about.
Notice though that Jesus still recognised evil where it existed in their enemies and their persecutors; he didn’t try to sugar coat their sins. What he does seem to be saying is that, as Christians, we shouldn’t try to combat evil with evil, whether it is actions or thoughts, but we should try to overcome evil with good, just as Jesus himself did.
We are all no doubt moved to pray for the people of Ukraine as the victims of this conflict, and rightly so. Let us also pray for the people of Russia who too are victims of war, even if unwittingly.
And let us do as Jesus taught, and pray for the Russian leadership, that their hearts may be changed, that truth and justice would prevail, that love would overcome evil and that the world would find peace.
God of mercy, we pray for the people of Ukraine
and for a peaceful end to the conflict.
We pray also for President Putin, that you would change his heart.
Let there be love shared among us.