"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45 NASB)
This is not really my favorite verse, but I have come to appreciate it a little more over the years. One of the things it makes clear is that God provides blessings of sun and rain for the "good" and the "bad" alike. This is not because He can't tell the righteous from the unrighteous. No indeed. He knows we are all unrighteous, and loves us anyway. Did you get that? God knows who is righteous (none of us) and who is unrighteous (all of us), and He loves us anyway. (His love does not exclude the possibility of judgement, but that is a topic for another time.)
Scripture is clear about our responsibility to pray for our enemies and those who hurt us. In obedience to that command, we have begun a regular program of praying for the world's most-feared terrorists. The second of the terrorists for whom we need to pray is Nasir al Wuhayshi.
Mr. Wuhayshi is from Yemen and was closely associated with Osama bin Laden, once serving as his secretary. Still a relatively young man (thought to be in his mid to late-thirties), he has also been closely associated with our terrorist from last week, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who promoted him to "general manager" of Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Penninsula just last year. AQAP is considered one of the most dangerous branches of Al-Qaeda.
Mr. Wuhayshi is a slight man with a very attractive smile. He has been described as "impish" but do not underestimate this man. Just this past April (2014), a videotape was posted to YouTube showing him speaking to a gathering of Al-Qaeda leaders. Of course, I do not speak Yemini, but here is a brief portion of the translation of his remarks. With a calm demeanor and pleasant smile, he said these words:
"We must eliminate the cross… The bearer of the cross is America."
Do not be frightened by these words. Let them serve as an impetus to pray. It is clear that he knows about the cross but not the One who sacrificed Himself upon it.
Mr. Wuhayshi's remarks remind me of another young man who was also a leader committed to eliminating the cross and all it represented. Saul of Tarsus dealt devastating blows to the young church as he persecuted believers and watched as they were stoned to death. He, too, was bent on destruction for the cross until he was walking down the road to Damascas. He saw a light, and met a Man, and that Man was Jesus. Before he knew it, Jesus had transformed Saul to Paul and the persecutor became the preacher, impacting the world for Christ as few others have done.
Mr. Wuhayshi will try to harm the cause of Christ. There is no doubt about it. What he doesn't yet understand is that Christ died for him, too. As you pray for him this week, please pray for a Damascas-road experience that opens his eyes and brings him to Jesus. Pray that this terrorist-persecutor will become a testimony-giving preacher who will impact the world for Jesus.
Is that likely? Only God knows, but we have not because we ask not. It's is certainly no more unlikely that the salvation of Saul of Tarsus. Let's not fail to asks for the redemption of this dangerous man.