Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Sometimes in life we struggle with relationships with others—especially with those who rub us up the wrong way, annoy us, or worse, there is a clash and we fall out with them.
I think it’s inevitable that we will have differences with someone—but what happens if feelings are so strong we feel hatred towards that person?
Jesus said in John 13:34-35: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” That means there is no room in our lives for personal hatred for anyone. Not easy but there it is.
A Story of Love and Forgiveness
What do you do when faced with a situation like Russell Stendal? I recall the story back in 1983 of Russell Stendal, who was a missionary jungle bush pilot making drops of fish, fuel and other food in remote parts of Colombia in South America. He was aware of the dangers with Marxist guerrillas and one day in August 1983, he was taken hostage into the jungle by a band of guerrilla soldiers. They sent a note and photo to his parents with a warning: “We demand 12 million pesos by 25 December or we will kill your son”.
For nearly five months he learned what it really means to love one’s enemies. He trusted God as never before and actually lived to tell the story. He wrote a letter home saying, “I am in danger only of losing my life; they are in danger of losing their souls.” Through kindness, Russell befriended his guards. One day the commander told him,”We can’t kill you face to face; we like you. So we will have to kill you in your sleep.” God enabled Russell to forgive, but for the next 10 days and nights he couldn’t sleep. A sub-machine gun was repeatedly thrust in his face under his mosquito net, but the guards couldn’t bring themselves to pull the trigger.
On January 3 1984, Russell was released. When he said goodbye, tears filled the eyes of some of his captors. An amazing situation of respect had built up. This is an incredible story of love vs hatred. How easy it would have been for Russell to hate these people who took him captive and threatened to kill him.
Walking in the Light
I know the Bible is clear on this: we are to love all people. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up trouble; love overlooks the wrongs that others do”. And in 1 John we read: “I am writing to give you a new commandment…if we claim to be in the light and hate someone, we are still in the dark. But if we love others, we are in the light, and we don’t cause problems for them. If we hate others, we are living and walking in the dark. We don’t know where we are going, because we can’t see in the dark” (1 John 2:7-11)
In one of his books, Nicky Gumbel tells the story of the nineteenth-century Cornish miner and evangelist Billy Bray. Billy was a really good fighter before his conversion. And soon afterwards, a fellow miner who had lived in terror of Billy before his conversion, made the most of his opportunity after it. He hit him without any provocation. Billy Bray could easily have laid him out unconscious, but instead he looked at him and said,”May God forgive you, even as I forgive you.” The result was that after several days the man gave his life to Jesus Christ.
We need to see that not dealing with anger has an adverse effect on our own health and well being too.