I was so shocked when I visited Jersey and discovered that during World War II, numerous islanders wrote anonymous letters to the Gestapo, denouncing those selling or hoarding food; sheltering or offering help to escaped slave laborers; or listening to the BBC radio. True enough, huge rewards were being offered by the SS for such information; but by writing anonymous letters, the SS had no way to know who they could reward!
At the same time, the postal workers did everything in their power to intercept these letters, steaming them open to warn the persons concerned. Hatred as well a love reigned during these days of terror. Yet hasn’t hatred and love co-existed throughout history? Let me explain . . .
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'” (Matt 2:1,2, NIV2)
The story of Jesus’ birth is already so amazing, and still more remarkable events would be forthcoming throughout Jesus’ life. I have always been mesmerized by how the magi from the Far East discovered the birth of the Messiah and were able to find Jesus’ birthplace. They had to travel such a long distance before they were able to worship this King, and worship Him they did.
When King Herod heard about this baby from the magi, he had but one goal in mind: find the location of that same baby: “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied.” (Matt 2:5, NIV2)
The priests knew without doubt where the Messiah “was to be born.” Strangely enough, why did none of them inspect this miracle birth in Bethlehem? If the Messiah was to be born there, shouldn’t there have at least been some rejoicing on the part of the priests? Furthermore, they weren’t very far from Bethlehem, a mere 7 kms! Why this indifference? Their apathy is quite troubling to me. The King of Kings had arrived, and no one, except for some poor shepherds and strangers from the Far East, deigned to come worship Him!
“(Herod) sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'” (Matt 2:8, NIV2) Herod seemed to be so genuine when he talked to the magi. He, too, seemed to want to worship the Messiah; however, his intentions were far from pure. He wanted to locate this baby in order to eliminate his competition!
“And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, (the magi) returned to their country by another route.” (Matt 2:12, NIV2) Jesus was on a mission, and there was no way our Father would let Him be murdered before His time. The magi concurred. They were truly men of faith.
Even in our day and age, those who want to worship the One who created us and saved us are being persecuted, just as in Jesus’ time. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, just as in the 1940s when 6 million Jews were mercilessly eradicated. The same is true with Christians. According to Open Doors, at least 322 Christians are murdered for their faith, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed and 772 forms of violence (Beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests and forced marriages) are committed against Christians each month.
If I were an atheist, I would wonder why there is such animosity against these people. There must be a reason. There is always a reason. At the same time, most of the persecutors don’t even know why they hate believers. After all, these Christians serve their communities with love, unselfishness and passion. Is this such a crime?
Jesus’ prophecy has become a reality: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” (Matthew 24:9, NIV)
One would anticipate that those persecuted would hate their oppressors, but far from it. They follow Jesus whole-heartedly, and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, NIV) is their motto.
Why is it that no one questions why there is so much hatred towards these people known for their love? Just like King Herod, too many are filled with a hatred that comes straight from hell. We weren’t meant to hate, but to love; but then, the source of pure love was hated, too, when he came on our planet, and in the end, He was even crucified: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” (John 1:10, NIV2)
No one realized that by crucifying Him, they were helping Jesus fulfill His goal: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV2)
We have nothing to fear. The world may not love us, but our Heavenly Father sure does!
And to those who persecute Jews and Christians, you have a choice to make: To Hate or to love. Are you truly satisfied by hurting others? Or does this leave you wanting? One day soon, you too, will face the same treatment: “For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matt 26:52b, NIV2)
(To access the entire “Faith to the Cause of Christmas” devotional series, please click here.)