As drama in America unfolds, you Christians in America are faced with an astonishing challenge. You have to learn how to love your enemies in a time of intense conflict!
Not exactly something the Party would put in practice…
We should never forget that the Chinese Communist Party is a revolutionary party which makes no bones about the fact that it obtained power through the barrel of a gun, and will sustain power through the barrel of a gun if necessary. We should not have any dewy-eyed sentimentality about any of this. It’s a simple fact that this is what the Chinese system is like.UNDERSTANDING CHINA’S RISE UNDER XI JINPING, By THE HONOURABLE KEVIN RUDD, 26TH PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA, PRESIDENT OF THE ASIA SOCIETY POLICY INSTITUTE, ADDRESS TO CADETS, UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY, WEST POINT, MARCH 5, 2018
So, if you want to keep the United States from committing relational suicide, you have to learn how to do that loving…
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
So, here is a question we have been wondering about…
How Will You Christians Engage Your Opponents as the Drama in America Intensifies?
Let me tell you how that question came onto our plate.
You see, as loyal Party members, we hold Christianity in contempt. Sorry if that offends you, but, that is just the way it is.
So, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome as we tried to move forward with this crazy assignment, was simply our unwillingness to really pour ourselves into even considering the possibility that, Christianity may be the story we are in.
But as the leader of the team, I was suffering a leadership crisis. How could I persuade my team members to put aside their contempt and make a genuine effort?
And one day, as I was sitting in my office, contemplating all this, Paula Wong knocked on the door and entered. So, I told her about my struggle.
“Comrade Chow,” she said, “you are going to love what I found.” And she showed me this powerful insight from Robert McKee…
Culture is a quarter inch thick. Human nature is bottomless.Robert McKee, Quoted in The God of Story: An Interview With Robert McKee, By Alec Sokolow and Tony Camin, Vice, July 1 2014
And when I read it, a spark began to start a fire in my mind.
What if we could overcome our contempt for Christianity by thinking about the Christians as human beings just like us?
Human beings who simply believe a popular version of the story we are in.
Just like we do. We believe a different version of the story than you do, of course. And, our version is better for the continued rule of the Party.
And don’t get me wrong, ours is also, as the Party claims — the true story.
But, that insight Paula showed me from McKee opened my eyes to something else.
As you know, Jesus gave you a second greatest commandment.
Here are those passages again…
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
And as our team came to recognize the deep connection human beings have with God, who is the Empathetic Protagonist… if Christianity is the story we are in, of course, it became clear that who we are here in the story helps show how the second greatest commandment is interwoven with the first.
For instance, look at this passage…
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
And since Jesus is the hero in the story in the Bible, that passage sure fits with this…
The sacrifice of one’s own life (or happiness or future prospects or whatever) for the good of others is the defining act of the hero.Give Your Hero a Hero Speech, By STEVEN PRESSFIELD, Steven Pressfield Online, JANUARY 17, 2018
And notice then, that he is also calling on you to be a hero.
Wild stuff. Skin in the game.
So you can see why the following caught our attention…
If we believe that, as Jesus said, the two greatest commands are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself,” then this passage has a lot to teach us. Basically, Christ is connecting the command to “love God” with the command to “love your neighbor.” By loving “the least of these,” we are loving God Himself.
In this same chapter of Matthew, Jesus blesses some people for what they have done. Confused, they ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” (W. 37-39).
His answer is staggering: “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’” (v. 40). Jesus is saying that we show tangible love for God in how we care for the poor and those who are suffering. He expects us to treat the poor and the desperate as if they were Christ Himself.Francis Chan, Crazy Love
So, as your drama in America continues to unfold, the conflict will intensify even more, tempting both sides to treat each other with increasing hostility and contempt.
But, if Christianity is the story we are in, it looks like your God wants you to do something very unexpected…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. …… But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Notice that this is rooted in your identity.
If Christianity is the story we are in, then loving your enemies is a mark of your being children of God.
This is really rather interesting to us, since we never think much about this.
So you can imagine why this also caught our attention…
Christianity’s most fully developed commands are the direct words of Jesus: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44); “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-31).Ravia Zacharias, Jesus Among Secular Gods
The contrast could not be starker. It was precisely the fact that Jesus spent time with and showered love upon those who were not submitted to God that infuriated the religious leaders of His day (Luke 5:30; 7:34). From Jesus’ perspective, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:32-36). All too often in Islam it is thought that people will be rewarded for killing enemies. In Christianity, it is putting your enemy’s life ahead of your own that is rewarded.
And this, from that Moser man…
Perfect relational righteousness includes not just general moral decency but also merciful and compassionate righteous love, or agape, toward all agents, including one’s enemies.Paul Moser, The Severity of God
Jesus taught as follows in the Sermon on the Mount: “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 … You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:43-45,48, RSV; cf. Luke 6:27-36, Rom. 12:20-21). Clearly, then, Jesus did not share the hateful attitude of the psalmist or assign that attitude to God. Instead, he attributed enemy-love to God and expected the same love from his followers.Paul Moser, The Severity of God
Moser also helped us see that, if Christianity is the story we are in, it will still be hard for you to do it on your own…
As indicated by our moral imperfections, humans lack the power of their own to meet a standard of perfect individual or relational righteousness. For instance, humans are in no position to claim that they have satisfied the commandment to love others, including their enemies, unselfishly. Human selfishness has intruded in a manner that violates this love commandment, and the consequences often have been harmful to the people affected. Accordingly, we may question psychological stability when a human emerges with a claim to possess perfect righteousness, including perfect love of enemies. At the least, we recognize that talk is cheap in such a case.Paul Moser, The Severity of God
We are hard put to identify a single mere human who plausibly can claim to love his or her enemies always at will, self-sufficiently, without qualification or exception, and this limitation is instructive now. Even if the apostle Paul, Francis of Assisi, and Mother Teresa are good candidates in the opinions of some people, these three would disown unhesitatingly the proposed exalted status regarding enemy-love, particularly as a matter of self-sufficiency. They would attribute any power of enemy-love within themselves not to their own resources but rather to the independent power of God, that is, to divine agape, and the same is true of other morally exemplary figures in the Christian tradition. (I also would add the Jewish tradition, but we need not digress.) In contrast, we easily can find evidence of human hate toward one’s enemies and, less extremely, of human failure to love others unselfishly. Indeed, such evidence seems pervasive among humans and even familiar in the popular media, where wide-ranging moral challenges are rarely developed by journalists. Accordingly, as Alan Richardson notes, “in the New Testament, agape is not a natural virtue which men can develop within themselves if they try hard enough” (1958, p. 259).Paul Moser, The Severity of God
And this Niebuhr guy also caught our attention …
The good news of the gospel is not the law that we ought to love one another. The good news of the gospel is that there is a resource of divine mercy which is able to overcome a contradiction within our souls, which we cannot ourselves overcome. This contradiction is that, though we know we ought to love our neighbor as ourself, there is a “law in our members which wars against the law that is in our mind” (Rom. 7:23), so that, in fact, we love ourselves more than our neighbor.The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr, Edited by Robert McAfee Brown
A part of the Church, facing the complexities of the political order, has been content with an insufferable sentimentality. These problems would not arise, it has declared, if only men would love one another. It has insisted that the law of love is a simple possibility, when every experience proves that the real problem of our existence lies in the fact that we ought to love one another, but do not.The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr, Edited by Robert McAfee Brown
It may be hard, but Paula showed us this passage, which caught our interest in light of your intensifying conflict…
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
We also saw how it appears that part of expressing that love is to treat them with civility.
Paula pointed out how your famous “love” chapter in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13, fits with civility…
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Our team thinks that is a great description of the kind of civility which is missing in America.
So, we’re very curious.
What is it you really want, that you have failed to try to do the persuading you need to do?
You see, if Christianity is the story we are in, your God really is the Great Storyteller, and he has given humanity the very kind of story which human beings deeply desire.
But if you refuse to change and do deliberation, you could be revealing that the inciting incident in the story of the prophet Jonah may be a picture of what is really going on with you…
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
And that sounds a lot like this…
Call to action in the hero’s journey is call to adventure. …. Call to adventure is when the hero is told, “Hey, you need to leave and go do something for the good of everybody else.” They go, “No way. I’m not going to do it.”Shawn Coyne, The Foolscap Story Grid – Part 2
That’s the Jonah Option, not the Nineveh Option.
And look at this…
In Jonah, the character of one man and the character of the one true God collide, with the man being brought to the point of a critical decision: will I accept that God is God and yield myself to His ways?
We will all arrive at this crossroad at some point in our lives. When the Book of Jonah ends, we see the procrastinating prophet who has still not made up his mind. But his moment of hesitation becomes a moment for each of us: Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of God’s mercy for all — nations or individuals — who will humble themselves and pray.Dr. David Jeremiah, The Jeremiah Study Bible
But if you choose that Jonah Option, then our team thinks you may want to consider the Anticipatory Peace Proposal from my best friend, Hector Klumpp.
Because, if all you do as you hang out in that minimalist corner is approach your situation as a political problem which needs a political solution, you’ll be tempted to treat your enemies with far less love and compassion than you should.
And the result will be to push America further into the Danger Zone of the House Divided.
So maybe you need to think differently about your unfolding drama…
It is not our task to conquer or convert the world or enforce uniformity of belief. It is our task to be a blessing to the world.Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence
Political scientist Glenn Tinder says that power is a “morally problematic” idea because it almost always induces “others to serve one’s own purposes.” In the sense that political power objectifies other human beings, it is a “degraded relationship if judged by the standards of love.”8 Political power does not have to result in immoral ends, but it nearly always does due to the fallenness of human beings and the brokenness of a world stained by sin. Humility, on the other hand, is always centered on the cross of Jesus Christ, a political act that ushered in a new kind of political entity the kingdom of God. Humility thus requires listening, debate, conversation, and dialogue that respects the dignity of all of God’s human creation. What would it take to replace the pursuit of power with humility?John Fea, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump
And this Darrell Bock guy understands that you need to change…
If a goal of our mission is reconciliation, as the passage in 2 Corinthians 5 shows, then our actions and words need to work toward that goal. It is all too easy to fall into a kind of contentious tribalism in the way we interact and in the process lose sight of the goal that seeks to draw a person into thinking differently about God and life—to win them to a different worldview through a style of engagement that mirrors God’s character. Luke 6:35-36 tells us to love those opposed to us and uses God’s own example as our model.
This change in direction another is asked to make is rarely accomplished through anger, belittling, or sarcasm. It is done through caring, service, and communication of respect towards a fellow human being whose need matches what God can give, depending on God’s Spirit to bring a change of heart. When a person knows I care about him or her, then I am in a better place to confront what needs attention.Darrell Bock is on a Mission From God to Change the Way Evangelicals Engage Culture. Can It Work?, By Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today, January 16, 2015
How do I love my neighbor well? Now we’re not talking about a love fest. Okay. We’re talking about a practical kind of engagement with someone who I know and recognize thinks differently than I do. And where that resolution of that tension actually ends up being resolved. And this is one of the places where the limitations of politics is important. Because you cannot solve the political problems that at their core are problems of the heart. Okay. Unless hearts are changed. Which is why the gospel is important as a conversation about this.
As I like to say, if you want to see what good law looks like with bad hearts read your Old Testament. That’s why we got the new covenant. You know. We got the new covenant because God has to do work inside a person to change them from the inside in order to get them thinking in a way in which they not only are willing to serve but in some cases to sacrifice in order for people to function alongside one another.
Darrell BockEngaging Political Issues from a Biblical Perspective, Darrell L. Bock, Dorothy Burton, and Bill Hendricks, The Table, May 17, 2016
And look at these…
When you’re busy hating everybody and denouncing everybody and seeking political solutions to everything it’s very difficult to evangelize, isn’t it? It’s very hard to be compassionate, to look on the crowds as though they’re sheep without a shepherd, very hard to look on them like that when they’re taking away my heritage.
Yet, at the same time, because it is a democracy, there are things we ought to be doing to draw the line here and there, even if you understand the laws don’t finally engender justice. They might preserve it for awhile, but finally they’re all broken and you have to change the laws. There are things we ought to be doing. There are faithful things we ought to be doing.
But at the end of the day if you can’t do it with compassion, and gently, and leave the doors open for evangelism, boy, you destroy everything. I think one of the Devil’s tactics with respect to the church on the right today is to make them so hate everybody else that at the end of the day they can’t be believed anywhere, not even in the proclamation of the gospel.Revelation (part 18), D. A. Carson, The Gospel Coalition, June 17, 2005
There is a great deal of anger on the American right at the moment. Let me just say a little bit about it, because it is troubling.
There is anger. There is anger seething through the whole land. Contrast that with the first Christians taking the gospel in the Roman Empire. They were nobodies. They didn’t have anybody taking away their heritage. They were out to take over the heritage. They looked around and saw an extremely pluralistic empire, and they said with Caleb, in effect, “Give us this mountain.”
They kept witnessing, kept getting martyred, and so on, and it was a revolution, finally, a spiritual revolution. We can’t do that today, at least we find it very difficult, because we’re so busy being angry all the time that at the end of the day not only do we lose our credibility with people on the left, they start demonizing us back, but we have no energy or compassion left to evangelize.Revelation (part 18), D. A. Carson, The Gospel Coalition, June 17, 2005
And as Christ begins to live in us, everything begins to change about us. Our minds change. For the first time, we realize who God is, what Jesus has done, and how much we need him. Our desires change. The things of this earth that we once loved we now hate, and the things of God that we once hated we now love.
Our wills change. We go wherever Jesus says, we give whatever Jesus commands, and we sacrifice whatever it costs to spend our lives in uncompromising obedience to his Word. Our relationships change. We lay our lives down in love for one another in the church as together we spread the gospel to the world.David Platt, Follow Me
“If I am simply critical of the culture, the culture is going to be dismissive of me. If we’re going to be effective in our outreach and evangelism, and if we’re going to really know ourselves — because we’re a part of that same culture — we need to be able to engage the stories that are forming the metanarrative and way we understand life around us, and we need to then be able to put that in conversation with God’s story that can complete it.”Robert Johnston, Voices on Faith & Film: Exploring A Reel Spirituality, Fuller Studio
“One of the challenges for evangelical Christians is that we’re not very good at being conversationalists. We tend to speak before we listen, and when we do that, we’re not actually hearing what the culture is saying. If theology and the Christian faith is going to be intelligible or make sense to anyone in the modern world, it really has to come from a place of being conversant with culture.”Kutter Callaway, Voices on Faith & Film: Exploring A Reel Spirituality, Fuller Studio
We normally encounter morals through the language of moral codes and commandments. Do this, Don’t do that. But it is much more illuminating to approach ethics and morals through stories and narratives.Lose the Story, Lose the Culture, By Michael Novak, National Review, July 2, 2016
Neither law courts nor the Constitution will save us as long as we live in a celebrity-addled society that seems to think the vacuous postmodern piety of an Oprah makes her a credible presidential candidate. The roots of our problem run deep. Indeed, so deep that they touch the profoundest places of the human soul. It is the heart that must change if arguments are to carry any weight. And only things that go that deep will avail us at this time.PREPARING FOR WINTER, by Carl R. Trueman, First Things, January 15, 2018
Christians are to be an example to unbelievers in every domain that involves attitudes toward others. Our public witness on behalf of wholesome speech is compromised when we celebrate the indecent speech of public personalities and cheer for their success as it impinges on our shared human concerns.Should Christians Renounce Donald Trump?, By Doug Geivett, August 11, 2015
And look at this fascinating material we found from two of your more insightful apologists…
Peter seems to have had some fight in him. It was Peter who cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant when the crowd came to arrest Jesus (how about that for a culture warrior!). Considering Peter’s disposition, it seems plausible he would have offered persecuted Christians a William Wallace-like battle speech and called them into war – at least a war of words. He could have led this weary community to respond with hostile tactics-to fight fire with fire. He could have encouraged them to demand respect. He could have launched what we will later describe as an “apologetic of glory.” But he didn’t.Apologetics at the Cross, by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
Perhaps Peter could still hear Jesus’ admonishment: “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). For years, Peter must have had his Savior’s words ringing in his ears: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).
By the time Peter wrote this letter, he could have replayed the final week of Jesus’ life repeatedly in his mind. It had all happened just as Jesus had predicted: He had come and given his life as a ransom (Mark 10:45). The way of Jesus, the way he conquered evil and sin by laying down his life, must have left an indelible mark on Peter. It was this way, the way of the cross, that shaped Peter’s advice to this community surrounded by a hostile culture.Apologetics at the Cross, by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
With Jesus as his model, Peter writes the beleaguered community and instructs them not to retaliate, but rather to rejoice in suffering, trusting in the reward secured by the resurrection of Christ (1 Pet 1:6; 4:12-14). In the midst of their suffering and trials, Peter reminds them that God has called them as a community, not simply as individuals, to declare his praises to the world (2:9). Peter instructs them to live lives characterized by compassion, respect, and humility — lives so noble they would positively impact hostile nonbelievers. For Peter, the way of the cross set the pattern for how believers should interact with nonbelievers and, in particular, hostile nonbelievers (2:22-24).
This study of the context of 1 Peter 3:15 reveals that even though Peter believes the gospel can and should be defended, he is not setting the course for a war of words; he is not pitting Christians against unbelievers. Instead, Peter sets the tone for apologetic conversations by giving a persecuted community hope and by encouraging them to endure with joy. Peter gave downtrodden Christians not a triumphalist call to throw intellectual knockout punches for Jesus, but rather level-headed instructions using words and phrases like “gentleness,” “respect,” “a clear conscience,” and “good behavior.” As theologian Kevin Vanhoozer notes, “Peter’s focus is not on what to say but on how to say it.” In the face of the gauntlet laid down by the gospel’s opponents, Peter called the Christian community to reasoned answers, a humble spirit, and joy. We call this approach “apologetics at the cross.”Apologetics at the Cross, by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
After instructing his audience to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” Peter adds, “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience” (1 Pet 3:15-16a). Those who have been transformed by the Spirit of God are to display “gentleness” and “respect” in response to skeptical critics.Apologetics at the Cross, by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
In this way, Peter not only calls us to be prepared to defend the faith, but also gives instructions for the manner in which we are to defend it. The tone and conscience of an apologist matter to God, but they also matter to the unbeliever. Peter states that the reason we ought to speak with a gentleness and respect is “so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Pet 3:16b). In other words, an apologist must speak from a cruciform life.
And that seems to connect with this…
The fact of the matter is that the Great Commission grows out of and is built on the foundation of the Great Commandment and the second greatest commandment, which Jesus explains in Mark 12: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (v. 31).
The Great Commission grows out of the interworking of these first and second greatest commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor. If we truly love God, we will follow through with the love of neighbor which he commands and enables, and the greatest love we can show to our neighbor is to help him become a lover of God, a worshiper, in his own right.Worship And The Glory Of God, By Ron Man, Reformation and Revival, Spring 2000
So, we really do want to know how you will engage your opponents as the drama in America continues to unfold.
Will you listen to your God and take the risk of loving them?