Events of this past week, past few months, in fact over the last few years, have really pointed out the divisions that exist between us here in this country and throughout the world. Divisions of race, gender, religion, politics, and on and on.
In The Sermon on the Mount which is in chapters 5-7, of Matthew, Jesus said that we should agree with our advisory.
Matthew 5:25-26 (NKJV)25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.
Later in this same sermon Jesus said that not only should you agree with your adversary, but that you should also love your enemy.
Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)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,
He was even more specific than that at another time. When He was asked what was the greatest commandment;
Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV)37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
To make it plain He went on to describe, exactly who that neighbor is that we are to love.
In His parable that neighbor actually turns out to be an enemy. We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:29-36 (NKJV) 29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"30 Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"
Editor’s Note: This post was written for Faithgateway, Devotions Daily by Tom Tarrants who at one time was a domestic terrorist fueled by racism, anti-Semitism and far-right ideology. He was captured, convicted sentenced to 30 years in prison, after being shot during an arrest for a domestic bombing attempt. Tom was redeemed by the love of Jesus and delivered from the hatred that consumed him. He is now Co-Pastor of Christ our Shepherd Church, an inter-racial church, in Washington, D.C. He has a story for this nation and those who, like he once was, are consumed by a hatred of people who don’t look like, think like, act like, or worship like you. The post was written in the aftermath of the last few weeks of senseless murder committed by people fueled by hate.
The post is an excerpt from Tom's new book, Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love,
A note from the author:
After another weekend of devastating mass shootings across America and the senseless loss of dozens of lives, our hearts go out to the victims’ families, and our minds ask “Why?” and “What can we do?”
As for “Why?,” these things are happening because as more and more people reject God and His ways, the foundations of society are crumbling. When David found himself in such a situation, he asked, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).
As for “What can we do?,” the first and most important thing Christians can do, as David did, is to remember that we have hope in God. We must turn to Him, cling to Jesus and the Scriptures, and seek daily to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This puts us in a position to be used by God.
One way He will certainly use us is to love our neighbors, regardless of race, ethnicity, or political views, and to wisely and winsomely share the Gospel wherever we can. In relation to events like the recent massacres, this will require individual Christians, pastors, and churches to recognize, reject and expose the seductive power of ideologies that exploit prejudices and stimulate anger, hate, and racism. We must not allow these evils to quietly infiltrate our churches or communities.
But love doesn’t stop there. It goes on to build friendships with people who are different from us. This enables us to see life and the world from different points of view and shed cultural blinders. Once our blinders are off, we will see how to better love our neighbor, not just in word, but in deed and truth.
Another extremely important thing we must do is to pray. “The prayers of a righteous person has great power” (James 5:16). First, we need to pray for the victims’ families. More broadly, we need to pray for America to turn back to God. And since the church is the soul of the nation, we need to pray for revival and reform of our churches.
We can also pray for those involved in hate and terrorism. Prayer was one of the vital keys that led to my deliverance from racism and domestic terrorism many years ago, as the following story describes.
An exclusive devotion from Thomas A. Tarrants, author of Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love.
I was raised going to church on Sundays, and at the age of thirteen I made a profession of faith in Christ and was baptized. What a sigh of relief I breathed, relieved of the fear of going to hell. The only problem was that I wasn’t actually born again.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. — Proverbs 14:12 ESV
That described me. My profession was motivated by fear of hell, not the love of God and not repentance for my sins. I was still on “the way to death.”
Several years later, that became obvious. It was the 1960s, and the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. I joined with others in fighting against it, became indoctrinated into racism, anti-Semitism and far-right ideology, then got involved in terrorism. The results were tragic: I was ambushed in a bombing attempt and shot four times at close range by police; my accomplice was killed. I was sentenced to thirty years in prison but escaped six months later with two other inmates, one of whom was killed when we were recaptured.
Back in prison, I was locked up by myself twenty-four hours a day in a 6’x9’ cell in the maximum security unit. Little did I know that in the two years since the bombing attempt, a group of godly, praying women, led by the Holy Spirit, had been praying together each week for my salvation. With nothing to do but read, I began a search for Truth that took me into classical philosophy and then into the Gospels. I didn’t turn to the Bible in search of God or for solace. I saw myself as a patriot fighting for God and country and thought my relationship with God was fine. But as I read God’s Word, my eyes began to be opened to spiritual reality. My sins began coming to mind one after another, and there were many. I felt a deep sorrow for what I had done and tears of repentance began to flow.
One night I got on my knees and prayed a simple prayer to Jesus, rooted in the hope of the Gospel, asking to be forgiven and giving myself to Him if He would have me (John 3:16).
Something deep inside of me changed.
When I awoke the next day, God was real to me in a way I had never known before. And I was alive to Him, reborn by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). I had a strong desire to read the Bible, to pray, and to live for God. Reading the Bible for hours each day filled my mind with Truth and this brought increasing knowledge of God, new ways of thinking and many changes in my life (Romans 12:2). Prayer gave me regular communication with God, and I began to see answers, which strengthened my faith. God gave me love for people I had once hated, and friendships developed across racial, ethnic, and political lines. However, I also struggled in my Christian life, at times knowing the right thing to do and wanting to do it, but not having the power to do so (Romans 7:19). Eventually, I came to see that
wholehearted surrender to God (Romans 12:1) and the daily filling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) were the key to growing in grace.
A couple of years before I got out of prison, another group, this time women and men, began to pray for my release, believing God had work for me to do in the free world. After serving eight years in prison, I was paroled to attend university. From there I moved to the Washington, DC, area and became involved in campus ministry, then pastoral ministry in an inter-racial church, and finally a ministry of teaching, disciplining and spiritual mentoring. Along the way, I also earned a master of divinity degree and a doctorate in Christian Spirituality.
It has been almost fifty years since God rescued me from a way that seemed right to me, but was actually the way to death, and I have much to be thankful for. What a wonderful heavenly Father He is! He has been very kind and patient with me, convicting of sin when needed, forgiving as I repent, strengthening me for fresh obedience, showering me with blessings and steadily fulfilling His purposes for my life. It has not always been easy, of course, but He has always been faithful and carried me through the trials and tribulations of life.
There are many around us today — family, friends, and colleagues, as well as seemingly hopeless people like I once was — who are on the road that leads to death. Peter tells us that,
the Lord is not… wishing that any should perish but wants all to come to repentance. — 2 Peter 3:9 ESV
But for that to happen, they need to hear and accept the truth of the Gospel, which is
the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes. — Romans 1:16
And they also need the Spirit-led, persistent prayers of God’s people, who will band together and keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking until God answers (Matthew 7:7).
Written for Devotionals Daily by Thomas A. Tarrants, author of Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love.
Tom is also the author of The Conversion of a Klansman, and is co-author, with Dr. John Perkins, of He’s My Brother