Love, the weapon to conquer enemies | Sunday Observer

Love, the weapon to conquer enemies

Serial attacks on Christians around the world are clear signs that tempestuous times are ahead and it is time to make an overall assessment of the situation.

To the majority Christians, these attacks are signs of ‘End Times’, as clearly spelled out in the Holy Bible. According to the scripture, Christians are to be persecuted like Jesus who too was persecuted and crucified.

To a believer of Jesus, persecution is not something to be surprised of. This is to be expected. Persecution of the early Church had occurred sporadically from the very inception. Persecution of Christians has been traced historically from the first century of the Christian era to the present day. The Christians who had been persecuted and martyred were the ones who defended their faith.

The first persecution of Christians took place in 64 AD under Emperor Nero after the Great Fire of Rome. This was well-orchestrated by the Roman government then. What began then, continues even today.

The Easter Sunday attack, particularly targeting Christians in Sri Lanka is a stark reminder that Christians in this part of the world too must wake up from their deep slumber and be prepared for persecution –persecution that is not to be countered in similar fashion.

In this context, the call for non-violence by the respective religious leaders immediately after the attacks on three churches and three hotels was commendable as this exercise was in harmony with the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Christians in Sri Lanka are to be much-admired for their patience and desire to refrain from any form of violent retaliation to the brutal attacks, claimed to have been perpetrated by the ISIS that killed scores of people including children and many tourists who were holidaying here on April 21.

How can one remain calm and not react violently when his own loved ones are killed? It is a difficult question to answer.

Hurt people, hurt people, is a psychologically verified human action. When someone is hurt, the natural tendency is to hurt the other in return.

Men of varied ethnic and religious groups, including different communities had been pushed against the wall to take up arms when hurt. While many incidents of persecution have been reported on the Christian community, there are also credible reports of Christians resorting to violence in the past, for instance the Crusades. According to reports, the Crusades known to be the Holy War, were the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean, with a view to recovering the Holy Land from Muslim rule.

The famous Maccabean Revolt, known to be the first religious war, led by Judas Maccabaeus after nearly 80,000 Jews were crushed to death by the Syrian ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes during his rule from 175 to 164 AD, is another recorded event in the history of mankind. Though the Jews were not considered Christians, they certainly were strong believers of God.

While people of all religions have entered into war with each other in the past, an important question that hovers around, especially, after the Easter Sunday attack on Christians in Sri Lanka is whether a Christian could ever resort to violence if he/she is truly a follower of Jesus Christ? The answer of course is a big ‘NO’.

The Easter Sunday massacre is something not to be forgotten in the life of Sri Lankan Christians.To Christians, Easter is the most significant religious event above any other. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is observed on this particular day. People all over, observe the season of Lent that precedes Easter and wait with reverence and awe to joyfully pay homage to the Risen Lord on Easter Sunday – the day of Resurrection. But those who carried out the horrific attacks on Christians on this specific day turned ‘Easter 2019’ into a mournful one, leaving behind an indelible scar in the history of Lankan Christians.

The incident put virtual restrictions on free worships on Sundays.The doors of most churches were shut the very first week after the Easter Sunday bomb blast (April 28)- an entirely new phenomenon. This was never to be seen even during the 30 year horrendous civil war that had ravaged the island nation.

Thereafter, services had been held under tight security. And the trend continues. The places where guardian angels were supposed to guard are protected by the police and the military with guns and weapons. Worships are held in fear of attacks by the ISIS. There had been a considerable drop in attendance due to fear in some churches. How then can one remain silent without countering this with the use of force?

How to counter persecution?

If the sword is the weapon of non-Christians, love is the weapon of Christians to fight the war against their adversaries. This is the command of Jesus Christ, to be followed in total and in joyful obedience. It cannot be flouted by anyone.

In the garden of Gethsemane, when the Roman soldiers appeared to arrest Jesus along with Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. But Jesus rebuked him. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword, (Matthew 26: 52).”

Jesus, in an earlier occasion had commanded His disciples to love their enemies and to bless those who persecute them. These commands do not leave room for violent retaliation.

Unfortunately, swords and knives that had been taken into police custody from many places after the Easter carnage had been reportedly kept for self-defence, according to media reports.

If such weapons were meant for self-defence of the non-Christians, the word of God is the only weapon to be kept and cherished for self- defence by every Christian here and abroad. Jesus had outlined in His commandment the kind of weapons to be used in such situations. They are ‘love’ and ‘compassion’ to be the only weapons against enemies.

Christians are to be persecuted

The Bible says, those who strictly follow the precepts of Jesus are to be persecuted.

SaintTimothy, an early Christian evangelist and known to be the first Bishop of Ephesus has said that those who want to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

The definition of persecution according to English dictionaries is: the act or practice of hostility or ill-treatment, especially, on those who differ in origin, religion or social outlook.

When the teachings of Jesus are firmly followed, one must refrain from what the world offers.

The common understanding is that when one follows Christ, he receives ultimate blessings in the form of riches and wealth that lead to joy and happiness. But the Bible does contradict this. The Holy Bible says that those who follow Jesus Christ would be persecuted.The next probable question is why follow Jesus?

History is replete with stories of martyrdom. Many people who followed Jesus Christ were martyred. In the era in which the New Testament was written many who followed Jesus were initially ostracized by their own families. This was one form of persecution that emerged from within the families.

When one differs from what the world says or offers and follows his own religious or personal convictions there is room for hatred and jealousy by those opposing this. How to react?

An oft quoted statement of many leaders of the ethnic and religious groups is that if they are pushed against the wall, they have no option but to take up arms.But doesn’t all religions talk of non-violence even in the face of violence against someone?

For Christians the message is clear, i.e. to be calm and pray for those who persecute them. Our love towards others must be selfless, understanding, sacrificial and forgiving. This is the kind of love the Bible teaches all.

If our scriptures command that we should lay down arms and stretch out our arms instead, to embrace our adversaries and not to shoot them down, we must adhere to do so without a second thought.

Committing a murder in the name of God, or causing pain to another in the name of God, or using the name of God to incite or engage in violence is in fact an abomination to God.

Christians wake up! This is the time to demonstrate your spiritual values, the time to sow the seeds of love instead of hatred. This is the time to show the world who you are in Christ Jesus, to be witnesses to the love of God. This is the time to be patient and vigilant. This is the time to pray for your adversaries that they may come to know God through you.