PRAYING FOR MY ENEMIES
Jesus’ application of love defies our use of love. It is not even within our nature to comprehend what love should be used for. It is a completely new lesson on how to 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, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to shine on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and 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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
The saying, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy” was not handed down to Moses in a code of ethics, but a tradition created by men and women. Even godly people adopted the concept and used it. They believed that God endorsed it, and the Joshua conquest of Canaan proved it, and so did the wars of Israel’s kings against their enemies. In a way, these defenders of their people were doing what was right. A love, that lets others trample all over another person, or nation is not love but tolerance. Undisciplined love is tolerance, and in fact, it is detrimental. One cannot let a person with a gun run about endangering others. We should hate what he does and love him enough to stop him from harming himself by harming others. The sword was not intended to be an instrument of hate, but of love to prevent evil from feeding on hate. The person that goes out to do harm should expect to be repaid for what he will do. Expect to be treated as one is treating others was also a universal law, and so was and still is “An eye for an eye” and “A tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38-42). Love has a right to protect its own. It is not just man who protects his own, but also animals do the same. I saw crows go after a hawk which had come too close to one of their nests. During nesting season, in our woods, the birds are very active and noisy to get me away from their nests. Human laws that protect criminals entering homes and hurt the residence and then are jailed for a time and released again is not love, but false tolerance. It is a perversion of love when the one in danger, harms the intruder, and then is being punished.
In most parts in the world, justice still demands justice, mostly for equals. The truth is that we do live in two worlds. In this country, regardless of the government’s attempt to separate itself from Christianity, it cannot shake itself loose from Christian morals. This is even more so for practicing Christians. We are instructed to love those who do not belong to us or share in our convictions. We live among them and they live among us, more or less as neighbors and not as hostile enemies. I recall such an arrangement, when I was a young lad in Poland, before World War II. We were Germans and lived among Ukrainians, Poles, Slovaks, Russians, Jews, and others. We got along peacefully until the Nazis and Soviets invaded Poland and friends became enemies. Most of the hostilities were motivated by fear of being harmed and they resulted in violence and imprisonment at the hands of those in power.
For us it became a chaotic time and a different kind of behavior was required. Under such conditions, there was no place for “An eye for an eye” or “An ear for an ear.” It was a time when one does not resist the man in power who holds a gun. “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Mt. 5:38-42). This was the way one should behave if a person does not hold a gun to our head. During the time we lived under the occupation of Germans, Poles and Russians, we did not dare and offer the other cheek or to walk an extra mile. We hid and stayed out of their way. They trampled our friend to death for less than turning the other cheek and killed my father-in-law for being German tending horses and reading his Bible. In war, when hate rules the enemy needs no reason to kill. During the last days before Poland fell, we bonded with non-Poles to defend ourselves. To love meant to live and one cannot love without life. That is why love, itself, motivated us to defend ourselves and protect those we loved. That was the main reason the fathers of the U.S.A. Constitution demanded the right to bear arms. During the last year before Germany was defeated, German settlers, in Polish territory, were allowed to have guns. The Polish saboteurs were very active, but stayed away from these settlers with guns. We had guns and we never had to aim at any one. They did deter crime in an area were the harvest was ripe for the picking. During those days crops went up in smoke, but the settlers did not go out to be shot at. I saw men beat up on people with armbands shoveling snow and they were not Nazis. These were men, who hated Jews and everyone else, they feared. Hate has no borders or limits because it is fed by fear.
During the German occupation, Germans from Germany protected us because they needed us to produce food for their army and our men folk to sustain their army. My father had served Poland’s army twice and tried every trick to stay out of the German army. Because of his background, to handle discipline and guns, he was put in charge of guarding our town from unruly individuals. He ran into a problem from the Nazi leader from Germany who was above my father. The man got drunk and threatened people with his gun. Father disarmed him and locked him up for the night. In the morning, the man went to Nazi headquarters in the city and dragged our father before the Nazi judge. The judge believed our father and reprimanded his fellow Nazi. This Nazi promised to put father away after the war. My father got out of his way by volunteering to work on building ditches to stop Russian tanks. And when the Russians could not be stopped, the Nazi disappeared long before the Russians arrived. We, too, fled only hours before they entered our village. We had a Russian soldier (a prisoner) and three Poles work for us and they helped us load our wagons, then they helped themselves to carry away everything eatable before the Red Army rolled in.
We lived under fear for almost seven years, and we constantly prayed for deliverance. The people, who worked for us, my father rescued from being taken to prison camps. He rescued two Russian soldiers, but one ran away. The one girl poisoned my baby sister and she would have been executed if my parents had turned her over to the German police. The girl did not mean to hurt my sister; she fed her the wrong medicine to keep her quiet. My sister suffered much, recovered but lost most of her hearing. My oldest sister died in a German refugee camp, and a truck killed my second younger brother at the age of ten. Yes, we had much cause to pray; but we did much more. We lived in enemy territory and learned to stay out of the way of the people, who were waiting to take out their anger on us. I have witnessed how our German lads, whom the Poles had mistreated in jails, took it out on innocent Poles. The culprits, who imprisoned our people and tortured them and killed some, disappeared over night and ended up in peaceful places in the world where they ended up as good neighbors.
We need more than love and prayers to stop hostility. One of my uncle’s prayers and pleading with God to forgive his torturers did stop them. But the shock was too much for his heart. When the war began, the German settlers were first targeted as enemies. The invasion of the Russians also turned the Ukrainians into enemies of the Poles. Together we had a better chance of surviving. On our last night, before Poland was defeated, we had all gathered in a Ukrainian home. Fortunately, the Polish bandits never came. Their time had run out, but our banding together also deterred their evil intentions. Disunity, among us, can be a greater enemy than the forces from without. I have personally experience Psalm 41:9. “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heal against me.”