As Christians we can come in the opposite spirit to love and to bless

As Christians we have spiritual weapons which we can use to bring an 'opposite spirit' to hate and warfare. We have someone that we are empowered to bless and to change...

As Christians we can come in the opposite spirit to love and to bless
Beauty emerges out of what has been destroyed (Image: Ian Greig)

• I didn’t say it was easy!

The horror and cruelty of Putin's war on Ukraine is being played out on our television screens, watched by shocked people in every nation of the world.

And we are all asking a version of the same question: "What can I do? How do I respond? How can the killing and destruction be ended?"

Across the world 2.5 billion people identify as having Christian faith. Some will be confident in that faith, secure in their relationship with God. Others will have more of a tentative or religious relationship. But all will want to pray, with varying degrees of certainty and confidence — and that's OK.

The question common to all is, "What is God saying about this?" That leads into the wider question of how to pray In a situation which seems so immense and so impossible.

Whatever God may say to you or me today will never vary from what He has already said to us in His enduring word, the Bible. And here is something which His Son Jesus said, indeed commanded. Spiritually it is a knock-out blow to evil

Jesus said: "You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbour' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:44-44 NLT

When Luke records this same teaching, he adds: ”Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you.” Luke 6:27-28

It is possibly the most difficult thing that we are instructed to do – love our enemies. It is not something we can do in our own strength. It's not something that comes out of our own resources of love. It's not something we do in the sense of following an example or trying to live a good life – because none of us Has it in us.

It is a temptation to set aside Jesus' more difficult teaching because it seems too high an ideal, beyond what is realistically possible. And it is!

Over the centuries a great many theological thinkers have struggled with some of Jesus’ sayings — like this one.

Is He setting a lofty ideal for us to strive to attain?

Having failed, is it to remind us that we are all sinners who need to live in the grace and forgiveness of God?

Or is Jesus giving us practical teaching we can put into practice, but only with reliance on His help?

The first two do not reflect well on our Saviour and friend. The third is closer, but to understand how it works, we need to step back and see what Jesus is doing here.

His hearers were very familiar with what we call the Old Testament. When we go back to the beginning of the book, we find God revealing who He is as Creator. Then to Moses and a select few with a prophetic call, He reveals how He is as Yahweh, holy and majestic.

I Jesus, God showed us what He is like through a person.

At the Cross, Jesus redefined love in a dramatic way and when He rose again on the third day, He redefined life and our own expectation of eternity. He spoke about the Holy Spirit that He was to send, and the rest of the New Testament is all written with this perspective.

This is an important distinction. It changes everything.

Following Pentecost, believers were enabled and empowered in an extraordinary way, beyond themselves, to live new lives as those who had been given a fresh start, free of blame for the past, to become spiritually new creations.

How does that help us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us? How does that help us to pray as Jesus suggests we should, for President Putin?

We can’t do it from our own hearts, which are too hard. We can't do it from that old nature, which is too selfish. But we can turn to God and ask Him to fill us again with His Holy Spirit, to fill us afresh with His love, and give us His words to pray.

It may seem insincere. Our feelings will object, but sometimes we have to follow God’s leading and our emotions — which are responses, not arbiters of truth — have to catch up.

Here is a prayer you can pray as it stands, or use as a basis for your own:

Father God we remember before you we were caught up in the independence of sin before we met with you through your son.
So as those who have received your undersea fed favour, Father God, we ask for your grace to be extended to Vladimir Putin as we ask you to bless him. We ask for your strong love to break through and Riches heart.We asked for your wisdom to be guidance for him he has not yet seen. We ask you to show him your way out of the trap he is in.
Just as you reached us when we were far off, so we pray that you will reach Vladimir Putin and bless him with spiritual blessings so he is able to respond to you. We pray in Jesus for the breaking the hold of the lies he is believing. We pray that he will be free to turn... and change his orders. And we pray for the release of healing in attitudes and relationships in Russia and Ukraine. For Christ and His kingdom, Amen.