One of the hardest commandments is to love our enemies and to bless those who curse us. The early members had just gone through some incredibly difficult trials, and they were bitter. This can be seen in some of the hymns:
At the hands of foul oppressorsFor the Strength of the Hills #35
We’ve borne and suffered long;
Amid ruthless foes outnumbered
In weariness we trod;
Tho, assisted by legions infernal,Up, Awake, Ye Defenders of Zion #248
The plundering foemen advance,
With a host from the regions eternal
We’ll scatter their troops at a glance.
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.Praise to the Man #27
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain
While being bitter after a tragedy is completely normal, and even healthy, it is time to move past this bitterness and have the hymns reflect the higher law of forgiveness and blessing our enemies.
One of the most beloved parables is the Prodigal Son. We learn that no matter what we have done, there is always room to repent, and God is there to welcome us with open arms. The example of the older brother teaches us that we should not be jealous, but rejoice when someone returns. Instead of singing of the hope of redemption, some hymns sing for vengeance and rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. We should never wish for the pain of our enemies.
The wicked who fight against ZionWe Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet #19
Will surely be smitten at last.
Tho Zion’s foes have counseled deep,Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake! #17
Although they bind with fetters strong,
The God of Jacob does not sleep;
His vengeance will not slumber long;
Without fear of thy foes thou shalt tread;O Ye Mountains High #34
And their silver and gold, as the prophets have told,
Shall be brought to adorn thy fair head.
He loves the Saints—he knows them well —Praise Ye the Lord #74
But turns the wicked down to hell.
One of the goals of the new hymnbook that it “invites joyful singing“. It is hard to do that while we are wishing doom upon our enemies. Instead, we should be praying for those who despitefully use us. We cannot have the spirit with us if we are resentful and jealous. Let’s not call people foul oppressors, tyrants or sing for God to smite them. The hymns should set the example of love and forgiveness towards others.
What do you think? How can we best inspire love and forgiveness for those who have wronged us?