Loving our enemies

Most Christians know that the Bible says something about loving our enemies. But when it comes right down to it, we don’t live our lives that way. Oh, we know that Jesus provided the ultimate example of this while nailed to the cross. He prayed on behalf of the very people who had nailed him to it…

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. — Luke 23:34

But, hey — that’s Jesus. He’s God. We’re just people. We can’t be expected to behave the way Jesus did, right?

Right?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. — Matthew 5:43-48

We are expected to love our enemies. It is possible, just read this account of Dirk Willems.

Now, how will you treat your enemies today?

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God or Country… time to choose

David Allen Black, professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has expressed his views concerning our current political season…

I have to say a word about the current fervor to get evangelicals involved in politics during this election cycle. The notion that we can “fix America” through electing certain politicians to high office is predicated upon a lie that has fueled politics throughout the course of human history – that there can be societal change apart from the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I’m not personally saying you shouldn’t vote. Have at it! But please don’t confuse this with kingdom living. Kingdom activism is a far cry from what I’m seeing today in American politics. The same Santorum who ruthlessly excoriated his opponent (Romney) for being a heartless capitalist just a few weeks ago now gleefully endorses him for president. Of course, this is how politics works. But I’m not sure that evangelicals appreciate the vagaries, compromises, and (sometimes) downright dishonesty that characterize politics. My allegiance is not to any political party (it once was – ugh!) but to the kingdom of God. As I wrote when I launched this website many years ago, “I believe it is time to stop seeking God in the misguided and erroneous teachings of do-goodism, whether the source is liberalism or conservatism. Jesus Christ is the only answer to the malaise plaguing our families, our churches, and our society. You can idolize man-made institutions with the hope that they will solve the societal ills of our day if you like, but I prefer to stand by the Bible and the life-changing power of the cross.”

I still believe this today. I grant the obvious – that some sort of human government is necessary until King Jesus returns. But when I see people saying that unless Proposition so-and-so passes America will go down the tubes I want to scream, “There’s another way of going about this business of turning our nation upside down, the way of Jesus’ selfless love!” There is simply nothing ambiguous about this. Jesus told us to return evil with good, to forgive even after multiple offenses, and to reject the natural “fallen” way of living life. In a self-centered world filled with dishonesty and violence, Jesus’ scandalous way of life calls us back to the simple life-giving message of the Gospel. The hope of the world certainly doesn’t lie in a marriage amendment. It rather lies in a Savior whose followers are surrendered to Him and who are willing to sacrifice everything for His sake. I am the first to admit that I do not follow Jesus this way or with this kind of high-level commitment. But that is my desire! So, as I said above, I encourage all of us to cultivate Calvary-love as we go about our lives in an election year. If your favorite candidate doesn’t get elected, don’t get too discouraged. Ditto with your favorite bill, position, or constitutional amendment.

It is remarkably easy to lose focus when bombarded daily with political ads and news. But, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we should guard our hearts and pray earnestly that we not lose focus, that we not allow ourselves to be manipulated by politicians and news reporters, because all of this, ultimately, is nothing more than a grand distraction.

Bro. Dave also addressed what the primary (if not only) goal of any Christian should be, and the fervor with which it should be pursued. He begins with a quote from Winston Churchill to the British Parliament on the eve of World War II…

Winston Churchill announced to Parliament: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

If our goal as Christians is to “disciple all the nations” and our neighbors, then it is critical that we adopt a strategy of sacrifice. Anything short of absolute commitment is truncated. The Great Commission provides a standard for evaluating our lives. The Lord’s mandate forces us to acknowledge that a lifestyle of ease and selfishness is irreconcilable with Christianity. Just ask Miss Cindi, who was hospitalized last week at UNC for malaria, which she contracted on her last trip to Ethiopia. Workers get paid for a product or service. Illness was Cindi’s “payment” for serving Jesus. In offering others the love and forgiveness of Christ, she also offered the most precious commodity in the world — her entire being, including her health. To help others we should:

  • Model truth
  • Refuse to be caught up in the American Dream
  • Plan on experiencing pain and hurt
  • Be sympathetic with the plight of others
  • Live our faith through practical service

Churchill promised his fellow citizens nothing but hardship in their fight against tyranny. When our Lord deployed the 12 and the 70 He too predicted difficulty. Believe me, getting people to the foot of the cross is the most exciting and the most difficult thing you will ever do.

I find it interesting that state leaders — kings and presidents — can issue a call for service, promising nothing but hardship, and receive an enthusiastic response. People can’t wait to “serve their country.” They can’t wait to “sacrifice for their country.” And, should a person lose their life in the service of their country, their loved ones will honor their death as the noblest of all. Yet, when church leaders issue a call for missions they are often met with objections…

  • I can’t afford to spend that much.
  • I can’t give up that kind of time.
  • There are risks involved with going to THAT place, are you sure you want to do that?

Contrast those attitudes with Paul’s. When Paul determined to go to Jerusalem in Acts 21 he was informed that the Jews there intended to arrest him. The believers with Paul, including Luke, urged him not to go. Paul answered them…

“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” — Acts 21:13

People are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of that which is most important to them. If you are willing to sacrifice more in the service of “your country” than you are in the service of your Lord what does that say about your level of devotion to each?

And remember, anything that occupies the most important position in your life is your god — and if that thing is anything other than the Lord, it is an idol.

Note: I hope Bro. Dave will forgive me for quoting such large excerpts from his blog. But he frequently expresses my thoughts more articulately than I could myself.

The results of a faulty Gospel call

I am becoming increasingly convinced that many of the problems experienced in modern evangelical churches are the result of unregenerate church members — and it is an epidemic. If this is true, then the question we need to address is this: How did so many lost people come to be ranked among believers?

The answer: We have been preaching and teaching a false Gospel. We have embraced decisionism rather than calling men to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. We have reduced the true Gospel down to “pray this prayer” or “ask Jesus into your heart” without telling people what Jesus, Himself, taught us about following Him.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” — Matthew 16:24

Denying ourselves and taking up our cross (a symbol of dying) is a far cry from the modern version of the Gospel where we “punch our ticket” to heaven, or make sure we have our spiritual “fire insurance.”

Jim Elliff, the president of Christian Communicators Worldwide, deals with the faulty Gospel call here.

Paul Washer, the president of HeartCry Missionary Society, discusses the disastrous results of proclaiming such a Gospel…

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