What happened in Virginia this week is terrible – terrible in the disregard for human life that started it, and terrible in the violence that has escalated from it. Sometimes, when I see events like this unfold, I begin to nurture a judging hate for those responsible. I call them names; I don’t want to be counted as “human” along with them. But that, of course, is the kind of thinking that started all this in the first place. So at times like this, I think it’s especially important to follow Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:43-45:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
So I invite you to pray – first, for those responsible for the events in Virginia, but also for any you count “enemy” in your own lives.
God, this week things happened that breaks our hearts. Hatred. Prejudice. Violence. You are the one who eliminated distinctions like “Jew” and “Greek” through your son, Jesus Christ. We know beliefs like white supremacy are counter to your grace and love for all human beings. You are the one who instructed us to turn the other cheek; we know retaliative violence is counter to your will for us.
We also know that the people responsible for these events are your children as well. You have asked us to pray for those who might be our enemies. So we lift them into your hands. God, please bring healing to all those involved. Be with Jason Kessler, the organizer. Be with James Alex Fields Jr, the driver of the car who killed one and injured so many. Be with all the young men in this white supremacy group. Convict them of their sins; turn them into repentance; forgive them through your grace; heal them of this hate.
These are not the only enemies we have, God. There are others, more personal to us.
We pause to pray for those who have been cruel and unkind to us.
We pray for those who have broken our trust.
We pray for those who have neglected to help us, turned our backs on us.
We pray, God, for our enemies. We ask you to heal them and forgive them – because we, too, need your healing, and we, too, need your forgiveness. Your grace extends to all of us. In your mercy and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you don’t hold it back from anyone. In the prayer he taught us to pray, Jesus instructed us pray for this forgiveness for everyone. We join our voices as one to pray…