Nigel Hughes: June 2015
As I write, Christians in Syria and Libya are being persecuted and war is raging in Syria and Northern Iraq.
With this backdrop, we ourselves can feel threatened and certainly have no idea of where or when it will all end. We certainly feel that there are individuals and groups out there who would wish us harm. Our attitude to such people is a major challenge for us as Christians.
Along with the command that 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself', Jesus effectively gives us a command in the Lord's Prayer. The words are translated in several different versions of the prayer:
The 1662 Anglican and 1928 Anglican and Catholic versions both use the words 'forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us'.
My edition of the New International Version of the Bible records Matthew's version (C6.V12) as 'Forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors'.
The English Language Liturgical Consultation version of 1988 uses the words 'Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us'. While Matthew's text would appeal to the Jews, as it reflects their tradition of cancelling debts after seven years, the alternatives certainly call upon us to forgive the sins of others.
This is a really tough challenge when we consider those who have committed or are committing warlike acts directed against us.
But while Jesus' words are uncompromising, we are not left alone in responding to the challenge. The Service of Commemoration for the Afghanistan Conflict, held at St Paul's Cathedral on Friday 13th March contained a number of prayers for peace, offered by representatives of several of the kinds of people who had been drawn into the conflict.
For me, one of the most significant included the words 'Lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world and grant us grace to pray for those who would wish us harm.' God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit will help us to pray for all who are working towards understanding and reconciliation between nations so that all involved in human conflict will eventually embrace Faith, Love and Hope.
All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew,
me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
calls my heart to be his own.
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