Those we find it difficult to love

Magpies in the garden. Photo by Lynn Hurry

At the end of the Eucharist at our church, our Vicar, Lynn (a.k.a photographer Lynn as above!) prays a blessing which includes the wish that God’s blessing may “be upon you, those you love and on those you find difficult to love.”

When I received her photo of two magpies, a mother and her young, I remembered that not everyone loves magpies. Many members of the farming community are amongst those who not only find it difficult to love them, they actually wage war on them. Others, less violently, dislike the way Magpies treat other birds; how they steal food and how they generally act as bullies.

So the photo from Lynn, showing a mother magpie and her young (clearly demanding food) seems at odds with the views many hold.
Yet there is a tenderness which is endearing.
Maybe it’s the vulnerability which appeals to the mothering instinct in some of us. Or maybe we are reminded of the way Creation is being destroyed and we are moved by the increasing importance of protecting all of God’s created things. Even aggressive magpies!

Before we get carried away with thinking that Magpies are aggressive creatures who don’t deserve our protection, we might turn the spotlight round.
After all, whatever aggression we see in the Animal world, we humans can beat them. Arguably, we are the most aggressive, exploitative and self-centred species on God’s earth – yet many claim that we reflect God’s image!
I don’t suppose that it’s a view you find easy to keep if you happen to be a Ukrainian facing the force of Putin’s army – those we find not, those we find difficult to love, but rather, absolutely impossible’

Yet there is a way in which we can move on from the hatred which destroys into a better, if difficult , place.
Today, I read about the trial of the men convicted of killing 130 people, in a terrorist attack in Paris nearly 7 years ago.
As the trial ends, it brings a difficult future for the family of Nick Alexander, the only British victim.

His sister Zoe, says that she refuses to hate the terrorists.
Each day for 10 months she has been listening to the evidence of what happened in Paris on the night of November 13th, 2015 – the night that her brother Nick was shot dead.
Zoe knew that it was important to be in the same room as her younger brother’s killers (14 of the 20 of them).
She was struck by how similar in age they were to Nick, who was 35 when he died.
She feels the futility and enormity of the tragedy.

Giving evidence, Zoe was determined they would learn they had not won. She would never subscribe to the legacy the terrorists wanted to leave, of hate and intolerance.
“We are not at war with you” she told them, “you’re at war with yourselves. I hope you can honestly look inside your heart and say it was worth it.”

The trial didn’t give her closure, “We will never close the door on what happened to Nick because it’s part of our family story.”
Speaking of the terrorists, Zoe said: “I can’t forgive them yet; that would be to condone what they had done, but we have to moved forwards without hate.”
Zoe believes that the only way we can learn from the attackers is to make sure we never join them. You can’t neutralize poison with more poison. If we don’t learn anything from this, it has been a huge and tragic waste.
The family, are now setting up a Nick Alexander Music Trust – to help disadvantaged community groups to come together through music. Zoe says, “Nick’s killers wanted to leave us with fear and hatred and darkness, and we have turned it round.”

Maybe Zoe’s amazing testimony will teach us that, difficult and impossible it can sometimes be, we might find it in our heart to ask for God’s blessing on those we find it difficult to love and in making that a prayer we might find we can take halting steps in the right direction.

Meanwhile may our outreach in love stretch towards little magpies! Vulnerable creation needs that love very much.

[Mr G]

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