Mercy for the Enemy


 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.

As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?” He answered, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel. II Kings 6:18-23 ESV

[Jesus said:] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Matthew 5:38-41 ESV


Jean Valjean had just been released from prison, where he had stayed many years, first for stealing some bread for his sister’s hungry children, then for trying to escape. He had finally finished his prison term, but no inn would give him a place to stay because he had a yellow passport that showed he had a criminal record. But Bishop Myriel was kind to this angry, bitter man and let him stay in his home. Jean Valjean stole the bishop’s silverware and ran off during the night, but the police soon caught him. Bishop Myriel told the police that he had given Jean Valjean the silverware as a gift, and he also gave him two silver candlesticks, saying that Jean Valjean had forgotten to take them. Jean Valjean didn’t understand this amazing kindness, but it changed his life. He became a very good man, always helping people who were in need.

When the Syrian army came to get Elisha, he prayed a simple prayer that God would make them blind. The army became powerless, and Elisha led them to Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom. The king of Israel saw Elisha lead him a helpless army, and then Elisha prayed that the army would be able to see again. The Syrian army saw that they were surrounded by the army of Israel and in their power. The king of Israel was ready to fight with them and kill as many as he could, but first he asked Elisha what he should do. Elisha showed the same kind of mercyBishop Myriel did. He said that the king should give them a big feast and send them home, so that’s what the king did. And it changed things. The Syrians stopped trying to raid Israel, at least for awhile.

It’s not always easy to know how to deal with someone who is mean or cruel, and sometimes we need the help of a parent or teacher or another trusted adult. But Jesus taught that it’s never a good idea to try to get revenge or hurt another person for hurting us. He showed us the most perfect example of love in his own life. We had turned against God and become his enemies, but God didn’t turn away from us. He had the right to punish us for our sins, but instead he sent Jesus to take our sins on himself. Jesus died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven, and his love and forgiveness changes our lives. Because of Jesus, we are God’s children, and he helps us give others the love and forgiveness that he has given us.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the love and forgiveness you give us in Jesus. Help us to share it with others even when they hurt us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Hugo, Victor Les Miserables Paris: A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven & Cie., 1862