04/12/2015 16:15 GMT | Updated 03/12/2016 05:12 GMT

Loving Your Enemies


"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you," (Matt 5:44).

You want to bomb Syria? Fair enough. The Commons said 'yes' by 174 votes so it's what most of our elected representatives want and that's how democracy works. We are already bombing. Maybe it's the 'right' thing to do; I don't know.

But I do know that if you support this, then you can't call yourself a Christian. It's as simple as that.

I'm sure there are many, sensible and practical reasons for bombing Islamic State strongholds in Syria. But you simply can't translate the words 'love', 'bless,' and 'do good' as 'bomb,' 'kill' and 'murder.' Those words are not in Jesus' instructions and, if you are a Christian, aren't you supposed to be following those?

That's the trouble with Christianity in my not-so-humble opinion. Too many folks worshipping Jesus and not enough following the teachings of Christ.

I got quite a reaction on BBC Radio Devon when I was doing Pause for Thought and said that I knew Atheists, Jews and Muslims who were better Christians than I am. That's because they are people who bless rather than curse. 'By their fruits shall ye know them,' (Matt 7:16). It's how we live that makes us spiritual -- even Christian -- not what we believe or say we believe.

Now, lots of people in the Gospels did worship Jesus because they saw God in and through him. But never once does he ask us to do that. He asks us to follow his example. Worshipping him is so often a cop-out: it is a lot easier to worship Jesus than to obey his teachings. Worshipping is simple; following is hard work. It's like that old definition of a Christian as someone who goes to church on Sunday to say sorry for what he did on Saturday and intends to do again on Monday.

Yes, Jesus did promote some disrupting. He turned over the tables of the money-lenders in the Temple and he said, 'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword' (Matt 10:34). That latter one was about setting families against each other -- because those who followed this powerful teaching would almost certainly be condemned and pilloried by those who didn't. Anyone who stands up for a teaching that points out the hypocrisy of established religion or established ways of doing things is going to have some pretty tricky Sunday lunches with the folks.

There's a story (and I don't know how true it is) that during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the Maharishi, founder of Transcendental Meditation, who was working with the Beatles and many other people, asked meditators attending a course in California, to extend their periods of meditation, focusing on peace to help avert the danger to America and the world. The message spread worldwide. Did that tip the balance or was it the negotiations between Kennedy, Castro and Khrushchev? No one will ever know but those who gave it a go were better 'Christians' than those who were planning war, no matter how frequently they did or didn't attend church.

You're quite possibly saying now, "this woman isn't a proper Christian." And you'd be right. I haven't opened up my home to Syrian refugees. I don't love enough; I fail every day in following the teachings of Jesus. But I keep trying.

Would the way of peace work? Would it disarm Islamic State in the long run? I don't know; I hope so but I know it would be a long haul and the human ego prefers short-term solutions. The trouble is that if those solutions are based on self-justification, they are not following the teachings of Jesus, and they don't actually turn out to be solutions at all.

If you have any faith at all, that faith must be based on love. The folk from Islamic State have no faith; they have a power-game based on the perennial egoic idea that their beliefs are the only ones which are right and therefore everyone else must be wrong. Goodness me, that sounds like a lot of Christians too, doesn't it?

Thank God they didn't have the Internet at the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

All I do know for sure is that there will be many more British and European bodies coming home, fêted as heroes for being sent to kill people and obeying the rules. And yet more hearts broken and lives ruined.

And I know of many who are praying and meditating for peace right now -- people of all faiths and none. And I say "Good for you!" I will be joining you.