Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Love Your Enemy....Yes, Even Him

Every day, each one of us faces the very real possibility of facing great violence in our culture today. There is no doubt that the violence being meted out toward innocent people is on the rise. But with each act of violence lies an opportunity. Each one of us also posses the very real opportunity to show our world that violence does not necessarily perpetuate more violence. Within each of us are emotions that are not always good indicators of how we should react to the external. When facing violence, to ourselves or those we love, anger, fear and panic are normal human reactions. But are these reactions good or even justified? When looking at the world from a cultural perspective, our answer would be assuredly yes. We're taught from a very early age to answer violence with violence, anger with anger and to despise our enemies. We're taught that our enemies are inherently evil and hating evil is righteous. I would agree that hating evil is justified, and an attribute of most faith communities. However, is an enemy or evil action always to be equated with evil itself?      

Just one day after the stabbing of 14 students at Lone Start College in Cypress, Texas, reactions are being made clear. Whether in the media or in your own personal communities, you are more than likely beginning to see exactly what most people feel about such a horrific tragedy.  Quite naturally, most people are reacting with emotions such as anger, sadness, disgust and fear. These reactions are normal, understandable and quite human. But when our emotions reach the threshold of reaction, we have a choice to make, and that choice could result in actions that reveal two very diametrically opposed pictures. One picture is cultural and socially acceptable. One that is expected and justified from most perspectives. The other picture is one that is counter-cultural, not very socially acceptable and completely unjustified and considered wrong from most world views.

"I have no sympathy for this evil SOB."  

"This loser. This scumbag. This pathetic animal, deserves no justice or sympathy." 

"If students were allowed to carry concealed weapons, this piece of crap would be dead!"       

"He's lucky guns aren't allowed on campus, orhe would of been brought out in a body bag."

"Kill him. Save taxpayers money!"

"Typical Obama supporter."

"Just when you think your life is bad, think to yourself, that could be my son."  

"Finally, we have the name of the freak." 

These are comments about the 20 year old stabbing suspect that I've collected since yesterday, and each one came from people who claim to be a follower of Christ. Some of these are from people that I know personally, and others are comments that I either overheard in public or read on message boards. Each one rose from a very justifiable place: anger, frustration, sadness or fear. Each one came from a place that most of us find ourselves when faced with the worst our culture has to offer. Each comment was real. Human. Acceptable. Expected. Good. And from the perspective of the Kingdom of God, each one is completely Un-Christian. 

When reading the Gospels, it's difficult to hear the words of Christ and justify many of our human reactions to violence in the world today. The teachings of Jesus were opposed and considered radical in His day. They were considered socially unacceptable, blasphemous and in many cases evil. Some of the things that Jesus taught were considered outright ungodly and perceived to be the complete opposite of what people of faith believed. Jesus' teachings were ridiculed, sneered at and dismissed as insanity. When we look at His teachings today, as well as much of the New Testament, it's easy to see that not much has changed in comparison to how our culture views such things.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. ... " - Luke 6:27-36

"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," - Matthew 5:44

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them." - Romans 12:14

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - Romans 12:19-21

"Blessed are the peacemakers....Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." - Matthew 5:9 & 11

"If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." - John: 8-7

"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." - Matthew 26:52

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." - Matthew 5:21-22 

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34-35

"Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world." - John 18:26 

No. His Kingdom is not of this world. His Kingdom calls us to something different, as He taught when He walked the earth. His teachings were not socially acceptable. His teachings were radical. He was rejected as a teacher and called a heretic, ungodly and to be from the devil. His teachings were counter-cultural and rejected by most of the religious leaders. His teachings were considered insanity and to have had no validity to the people of faith. When we read the Gospels, it's easy to see that things have not changed that much in 2013. 

When faced with the most evil manifestations in the world today, we each have a choice in how we react to the human emotions that we have. We can react with anger, fear and frustration. We can return violence with violence and perpetuate the hate that arises from evil, or we can choose to follow the words of Christ and promote something different. For His Kingdom calls us to love when faced with hate, exhibit compassion when others ridicule, to promote peace when faced with violence, and to bless when our natural reaction is to curse. His Kingdom calls us to be different. His Kingdom calls us to manifest how things are suppsoed to be, not how things are.          


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