Thursday, June 11, 2015

No More Enemies

Jesus told us not to just love our friends, but love our enemies as well.  
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  [Matthew 5:43-48]
That's a tall order isn't it, especially if we're willing to admit that we really do have enemies.  I'm increasingly frustrated by the vitriol that I am hearing on all sides of the political and religious spectrum. We find it difficult to listen to others. We're content with stereotypes, probably because we're not in relationship with the people we perceive as being on the wrong side of things. Now I understand that there are issues of justice involved in many of our debates.  But that's not the point.  


My concern is how we might get beyond our stereotypes so we can experience some kind of transformation -- may I even use the word salvation, if salvation is understood in its broader terms of healing, liberation, and reconciliation. 

I have been reading Josh Grave's book How Not to Kill a Muslim: A Manifesto of Hope for Christianity and Islam in North America(Cascade Books, 2015), which as you might expect addresses an issue of some importance in our culture. I'll be writing a review of the book when I'm finished, but Josh, who is a Church of Christ pastor in Metro Nashville (Otter Creek) with ties to Rochester College here in Michigan, is addressing Christians, inviting them to move beyond their stereotypes of Muslims and move toward true relationship. 

So, with this introduction I wanted to share a paragraph from the book that I think speaks to my broader concerns, as well as my desire to set aside stereotypes that keep us from understanding and being in relationship with our Muslim neighbors.  So, Josh writes of the need for the church, which is made in Jesus' image, to embrace our neighbors (who ever they are).
I hope you agree when I say that the time is now for liberal and evangelical Christians in America to let go of our need for enemies. It is time for us to release the love of hate and fear of the unknown. It is time to sop looking and start seeing. Why should we continue to define ourselves by our hatred of enemies instead of by our love of the one who came to end division among ethnic and religious groups?  [How Not to Kill a Muslim, p. 56].  
While Josh is addressing specifically the issue of Muslim-Christian relationships, I think that there is wisdom here that applies to other areas of concern.  It is important, in my mind, that we as Christians remember that whatever our theologies and doctrines and practices, that we are united in Christ, in whose image we are to be remade. 

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