Who is my enemy?

I will never forget that tragic day in Durban, South Africa. I was 13 years old and played in the front yard on a beautiful sunny day of bliss catching with my brothers, sisters and friends when my mom called the family inside. Tears ran down her face as she held a newspaper article telling of my father's tragic death in East Africa.

The circumstances of his death were fraught with some question marks. Nevertheless, everything seemed to indicate that he was a victim of the Mao Mao war, which took place from 1952 to 1960 and was directed against the colonial rule of Kenya. The most active group in the conflict was the Kikuyu, the largest ethnic group in Kenya. Although the clashes were directed primarily against the British colonial power and white settlers, there were also violent riots between the Mao Mao and the loyal Africans. My dad was a major in a Kenyan regiment at the time and played an important role in the war and was therefore on the kill list. I was emotionally desperate, confused and very upset as a young teenager. The only thing I knew was the loss of my beloved father. This was shortly after the end of the war. He had planned to move to South Africa in a few months. At that time, I had not understood the exact reason for the war and only knew that my father was fighting a terrorist organization. She was the enemy through whom many of our friends had lost their lives!

Not only did we have to cope with the traumatic loss, but we also faced the fact that we could face a life of great poverty because the state authorities refused to pay us the value of our property in East Africa. My mother then faced the challenge of finding a job and educating five school-age children and providing them with a meager salary. Nevertheless, in the years that followed, I remained faithful to my Christian belief and did not stir up anger or hatred for the people responsible for the terrible death of my father.

No other way

The words that Jesus spoke when he hung on the cross, looking at those who denounced, taunted, flogged, nailed to the cross and saw him die in agony comforted me in my grief: "Father, forgive you because they do not know what they are doing. "
The crucifixion of Jesus was instigated by the self-righteous religious leaders of the day, the scribes and Pharisees, who were enveloped in their own world of politics, authority, and complacency. They grew up in this world and they were deeply rooted in their own psyche and the cultural traditions of their time. The message that Jesus proclaimed was a serious threat to the survival of this world. Therefore, they forged a plan to bring him to justice and crucify him. It was completely wrong to act that way, but they saw no other way.

The Roman soldiers were part of another world, part of an imperialist rule. They simply obeyed the orders of their superiors just as any other loyal soldier would have done. They saw no other way.

I, too, had to face the truth: the Mao Mao rebels were trapped in a vicious war that was about survival. Her own freedom was impaired. They grew up believing in their cause and chose the path of violence to secure their freedom. They saw no other way. Many years later, 1997, I was invited to be a guest speaker at a gathering near Kibirichia in the eastern Meruregion of Kenya. It was an exciting way to explore my roots and show my wife and children the awe-inspiring nature of Kenya and they were very pleased.

In my opening speech, I spoke of the childhood that I enjoyed in this beautiful country, but did not talk about the downsides of the war and the death of my father. Shortly after my performance, a gray-haired elderly gentleman came to me on a crutch walking and with a big laugh on his face. Surrounded by an enthusiastic group of about eight grandchildren, he asked me to sit down because he wanted to tell me something.

This was followed by a touching moment of an unexpected surprise. He talked openly about the war and how he was a member of the Kikuju in a terrible fight. I heard from the other side of the conflict. He said that he was part of a movement that wanted to live freely and work in the lands that were taken away from them. Sadly, he lost and many thousands of other beloved people, including women and children. That warm-hearted Christian gentleman then looked at me with eyes filled with love and said, "I am very sorry for the loss of your father." It was hard to quench my tears. Here we were and talked as Christians a few decades later, having previously been on opposing sides in one of Kenya's most cruel wars, even though I was just a naive child during the time of the conflict.

We were immediately connected in deep friendship. Even though I never met with bitterness the people responsible for the death of my father, I felt a deep reconciliation with the story. 4,7 then reminded me, "And the peace of God, higher than all reason, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." The love, peace, and grace of God united us in oneness in His presence. Our roots in Christ brought us healing, breaking the cycle of pain we had spent in our lives. An indescribable feeling of relief and liberation filled us. The way God has brought us together reflects the futility of war, conflict, and disenchantment. In most cases, neither side had really won. It breaks your heart to see Christians fight against Christians in the name of their cause. In times of war, both sides pray to God and ask Him to stand on their side, and in times of peace the same Christians are most likely friends.

Learning to let go

This life-changing encounter helped me to better understand the Bible verses that speak of love of the enemy (Lk 6,27-36). Apart from a war situation, it also requires the question of who our enemy and opponent is? What about the people we meet every day? Do we incite hatred and aversion to others? Maybe against the boss we can not handle? Maybe against the trusted friend who hurt us deeply? Maybe against the neighbor with whom we are in dispute?

The text from Luke does not forbid wrong behavior. Rather, it is about keeping the big picture in mind by exercising forgiveness, grace, goodness, and reconciliation, and becoming the man to whom Christ calls us. It's about learning to love the way God loves by maturing and growing as Christians. Bitterness and rejection can easily capture us and exercise control over us. Letting go of learning by placing in the hands of God the circumstances that we can not control and influence makes the real difference. In John 8,31-32, Jesus encourages us to listen to his words and act accordingly: "If you will abide by my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." is the key to freedom in his love.

by Robert Klynsmith

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