“For me the issue has been settled. The Lord called me to reach out to my people and I have to. So whether they are killing me, I will still love them with the love of God. I do not see them as my enemies because they killed my son. I have forgiven them because they do not have Christ and that is all they can think at their level.”
These are the words of Reverend P, a pastor in Northern Nigeria whose son was murdered by the militant Muslim group, Boko Haram. Reverend P had received threats from Boko Haram because of his Christian faith and ministry. One day while his son was out walking they attacked him, cutting him to pieces with machetes.
I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to find Rev. P’s response of love and forgiveness astounding. Oftentimes, we like to talk about how much we love God. Love makes us feel good. But love isn’t just kindness and good feelings. God’s love is fierce. It’s jealous, unyielding and all consuming, in a pure and holy way. God’s love for us caused him to give up what he held most dear, his son Jesus Christ. And that same love asks much of us in return.
How do we show God that we love him beyond just giving lip service? The Bible says “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15). If we can show God we love him through obedience to commands then that begs the question, which commands? Isn’t the Bible full of commands?
There is a story in the book of Matthew where a lawyer asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is (Matthew 22:34-39). He wanted Jesus to pick just one. However, when pressed with the issue, Jesus couldn’t pick just one—he had to pick two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” What Jesus is saying here, which he reaffirms in scripture elsewhere, is that you cannot separate loving God from loving people. In fact, you can show God how much you love him by loving other people.
The Bible says “what you have done unto to least of these you did to me” (Matthew 25:40). Often we think of “the least of these” as a poor orphaned child or abandoned widow; that could certainly be true. But the least of these could also be a Muslim militant member of Boko Haram. Those hardest to love are often “the least of these.” So when Rev. P choose to love his son’s murderers and to obey the Bible’s command to “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27), he is showing God how much he loves Him.
The Bibles says faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26). God wants our faith to consist of more than us telling Him we love Him, he wants us to show it. And one of the best ways to do that is by loving others, even when it’s difficult.
The good news is that this love is not contingent on our own abilities. Rev. P said “I will still love them with the love of God.” God is the only one who can grant us miraculous love in such a tragic situation. But it starts with a choice, like Rev. P, you get to decide daily if “the issue has been settled” in your heart or not. Will you show God your love for Him by loving the hardest of people?
"Grace Taylor" serves on the staff of VOM. She was first introduced to the ministry of VOM by her parents and grandparents, who received the VOM newsletter, and through the VOM book Jesus Freaks. She has served in 12 different countries and is passionate about helping expand God’s Kingdom throughout the nations of the world.