“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.” –Jesus, Matthew 5:43-45
Say you’ve got a little time to kill and you want to create your own little civilization and then rule over its inhabitants as their deity. Well it just so happens that there’s an app for that. One of the most popular applications for the iPhone is a game called “Pocket God.” Here’s a description of the game as given by the app store: “What kind of god would you be? Benevolent or vengeful? Play Pocket God and discover the answer within yourself. On a remote island, you are the all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders. You can bring new life, and then take it away just as quickly.”
In my neverending pursuit of journalistic integrity I decided to purchase this app for myself…errr, I mean for you. You know…just so I can tell you what it’s like.
After playing it for ten minutes, I have figured out how to strike the islanders with lightning, set them on fire, flick them into the sea, dangle them over a shark until it eats them, and deprive them of bathroom privileges until they pop. (To the game-makers’ credit, this is all portrayed in a very “Tom & Jerry like” manner.) I also discovered how to give them fire, help them catch a fish, and roast a seagull for them. But I must point out that there are many more opportunities to wreak havoc than to create prosperity.
I guess we understand why. It’s more fun, isn’t it? I think most people, if given absolute power over an imaginary group will prefer to have a little bit of not so harmless fun with them. From a human point of view, wrath is easier to imagine (and enjoy) than mercy.
That’s just one of the reasons that Jesus’ statement above is so revolutionary. People who follow Jesus’ command on this are turning things upside down. They’re really upsetting the apple cart. What we expect is revenge. What Jesus gives is forgiveness and love and prayers for our enemies.
It also tells us something about our understanding of God as opposed to who God really is. Most people think of a wrathful, capricious god, ready to unleash a lightning bolt on some poor unsuspecting creature. What we see in Jesus is a God who forgives all—even those who subject him to the cruelest of tortures. How Blessed are we that are God is “slow to anger and abounding in love!” When our God picks us up, it is not to toss us into a volcano. It is in order to embrace us.
Robert Lee