Yes I know.
It’s a trick.
I fully admit it. The title of this post is not about our current president, or about politics.
But it is about hope and change.
There are two items in the news this week that caught my attention. The first one was Charles Manson. According to the news, he has broken his 20 year silence and granted a new interview. My first thought was – who cares? Why give this monster any time at all? Let him rot in jail. Most of us know the horrific crimes committed by the Manson family, culminating in the murder of Sharon Tate and her unborn baby. Every time I think of that incident, and the other crimes committed by this mad man, all that crosses my mind is how evil he is. Yes the thought crosses my mind that surely this is a man worthy of an eternity in Hell. There I said it.
The second news item is one I just read this morning, and is about Cuba, where my family is from. Today came the announcement that the Castro brothers have named a successor, José Ramón Machado. I don’t believe Cubans are cheering the announcement, knowing that Machado is from the same mold as the Castro’s, having fought in the Revolution and a loyal party member. When we consider all of the people who died or languished in prison to speak out for freedom on the island, not to mention those like my family who were forced out by the Castro government, it is easy to understand why Cubans in America no longer name there babies Fidel.
So here is my dilemma. Jesus tells us to love our enemies.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
That is a tough one.
Charles Manson? Fidel Castro? Surely Jesus could not have meant that I was to love these two, could he? I mean, when I think about the things these two people have done in their lives, the only thing that comes to mind is – well – pure evil. Yet there is no mistaking the words of Jesus. And the fact is that if we read about his ministry, he did just that. Jesus invited Roman soldiers, thieves, and prostitutes to follow Him. He broke bread with the outcasts of society. Jesus even washed the feet of his disciples, knowing that one of them was going to deny Him three times, and another was going to turn Him in to be crucified.
Let’s think about this for a moment. Jesus knew He was going to be crucified. He also knew Judas would betray Him. In an act of true agape (unconditional love), Jesus humbled Himself to wash the feet of all of His disciples. When I think of this part of the Bible, I get goose bumps. This is the Messiah. It is God in the form of man, yet He is showing us what true love really is. It is the equivalent of me washing the feet of Fidel Castro, knowing he would be responsible for my death. Is this really what He expects of us.
In a word, yes.
The verse that hits home for me is the part that says that God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good. God created Charles Manson. He also created Mother Theresa. He created Fidel Castro. He also created Billy Graham. He loves all of those people just like He loves you and I. Being created in His image, we are taught by Jesus to love our enemies as well. There is nothing in that passage that says love your enemies except for the really bad people. There is nothing in that passage that says this was only a Jesus thing, and we are off the hook.
So how do we do this? Well, I can’t tell you I am there. As a sinner, I struggle to understand this concept, but I ask God to give me understanding, to make a change in my heart that allows me to truly love my enemies. You see, the passage above tells us something very important about Jesus, about God, and what He really wants for us.
He wants us to be different.
I think Jesus is very clear when He tells us that even tax collectors love those who love them. Keep in mind that tax collectors during this time were in many cases thieves. There is an overriding theme to this passage which I believe is the key to living your life surrendered to God’s will. Jesus wants to make a change in our life – real change. He wants us to be more like God, and to do that, we have to recognize the beauty in His creation, and yes, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro are a part of that. As Christians, we are called to be in this world, but not of this world. But we are not alone. We are not asked to do this ourselves. Jesus is standing there with us, right next to us, and more importantly, within us.
Change through Jesus comes in baby steps for most of us. We may not be at the point where we can truly love these mad men, but when Jesus resides within us, suddenly we start to see the world in a different light. All of a sudden, we can see that the homeless man on the street may not be an opportunist looking for a quick buck. Maybe he really is homeless, and the change I have in my car, or the couple of bucks in my pocket is not as important to me. We can see that the person sitting next to us at church with alcohol on his breath has as much right to be there as we do. We can see that people we would normally not include in our lives, or that we turned away from in the past, deserve our love and respect.
But when it comes to Manson and Castro, I am just not there yet. I am weak, and as such, I find it very difficult to feel agape love for them. I know God’s standard, and as a sinner, I fall short, just as we all do. But I will continue to seek out understanding, and will wait on the lord to make that change in my heart. I ask Jesus to make real change in me, and I hope to one day be at a point in my walk with Him to truly say that I have achieved it.
That, my friends, is REAL hope and change.