In the light of 9/11 coming up and the change in the rhetoric in and around the U.S. I’ve been pondering some serious questions. Join in if you’d like.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at a training session for a group of people who are on a plane to France for a 2 week missions trip. In my preparation process I find myself warring not only against myself but others in my mind and in my experiences that negatively shaped my view of Christianity. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. We have all heard that we are to “Love your enemies”. It is the logical (if extreme) extension of “love your neighbor.” When asked, “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus tells a story in which a Samaritan is the protagonist and moral exemplar of neighborly love.
By identifying a hated outgroup as the good neighbor and especially in mandating love for enemies, Jesus effectively deprives us of any criteria for choosing whom to love. The circle of love becomes a sphere in which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere. Heck, the Gentiles [that’s mostly likely you and I] even get grafted into the people of God. How’s that for sharing the love? Yet somehow I see Christians (including myself) forget this….. how?
Love of enemies, is supposed to be a kind of shorthand for a universal and indiscriminate love of others. Often, however, our conversations about loving enemies presuppose (or at least fail to question) the ability of the others to determine who our enemy is. This has the unfortunate effect of family, friends, and even our local church where we take the attitude of the brother in the Parable of the Prodigal son (Luke 15) that wont join the EPIC party that was being thrown for his brother who is back at home. This sense of entitlement seems to permeate American followers and I just wonder are we against the wrong things?
Peacemaking is an important part of the ministry of reconciliation with which the church is charged. But the end of all conflict is neither the point nor the goal of Christian ethics. It happens to pass the “What would the world be like if everyone did this?” test, because the world would certainly be a better place if everyone loved their enemies (particularly if they defined such love so as to include not killing them). But not everyone will.
I sometimes wish someone would have asked Jesus, “Who is my enemy?”, because at least we’d get an interesting story out of it. In the absence of such a story, we might do well to focus on those around us who may not be enemies so much as simply those who have wronged us, or whom we don’t like so much, or the outcast, or the merely odd. Enemy-love can be easy to affirm in lives where actually encountering a physical enemy is unlikely.
Check out Ephesians 6 especially verse 12 and let me know what you think below.
the image from The Plow