In 1973 four hostages were taken in a Stockholm bank robbery. When eventually released the victims defended their captors and refused to testify against them in court. Their experience led to the coining of a term that represents, by some estimates, 8 percent of persons who have been intermittently harassed, beaten, threatened, abused, or intimidated by another person.
Initial explanations were that the captives had been brainwashed by their abductors. Over the years other researchers have suggested that when hostages, prisoners or war, or victims of domestic violence develop positive feelings toward those who mistreat and traumatize them, it is evidence of a confusion caused when the desire to live is greater than reasons to hate.
So what is happening when readers of the Bible discover that they are commanded to love a God they are afraid of, or to love an enemy who hates, abuses and insults them?
Many of us have come to rightly or wrongly believe that you cannot by authority, threat, or coercion force someone to have a healthy and meaningful love for you.
Doesn’t this, at the very least, raise questions about what is at stake in how we read and interpret our Bibles and personal experience?