Thursday, May 5, 2011

Praying for Enemies

"O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." -Prayer For our Enemies, from the Book of Common Prayer, p. 816
I had forgotten that this prayer was in our prayerbook until after the news this week about Osama Bin Laden's death. Facebook was absolutely flooded with the news. Many of my friends began to post this prayer and/or selections from scripture that deal with how we should treat those whom we call "enemy."
"Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble." - Proverbs 24:17
"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?" - Ezekiel 18:23

I was particularly touched by the quote from Ezekiel. God would rather the wicked turn from their ways than to see them die. Human beings, quite frankly, would often rather see the wicked die. We might want the wicked to die because we have been hurt and/or are afraid and want to protect ourselves and others. We might believe that it is justice for certain people to die, or we might think that it is the only choice we have or the lesser of evil choices that we have. We might rather the wicked die because we are incapable of seeing the possibility of redemption and reconciliation.

We talk about a God that is a God of love, mercy, and justice. What we often don't admit is the unfortunate tendency of people to want the love and mercy for ourselves when we screw up, and justice (in the form of punishment) for others. God's love and mercy is available for everyone; whether or not God's love and mercy is accepted by a person is another matter.

A friend of mine has an excellent reflection on the news of Osama Bin Laden's death entitled Mourning After. I join him in saying that Bin Laden's death is a good thing that we don't need to celebrate. Life is sacred, and should be mourned when lost. I have had mixed emotions about Bin Laden's death. There is relief that someone responsible for so much death and destruction is no longer capable of doing any more harm. Yet there is sadness that our world is a place in which it is necessary for certain people to die so that others might live. And there is sadness in realizing that this death doesn't solve all our problems, it will not be the last death. I want a better world, a world where there is redemption and reconciliation in abundance, and justice and mercy for all. I will pray for this world and pray for my enemies.