Lesson 14: Love Enemies

Loving othersMy intention was to draw up marks of a gospel community, intending to come up with characteristics of a community that followed Christ Jesus. It seemed simply common sense to begin with accounts of what Jesus himself identified as his message.

It quickly became evident to me that a primary mark of Jesus’ message and the early church’s practice was sharing money. When I noted that last week, participants agreed Jesus’ small band and the early community in Jerusalem shared all, but nobody seemed to think the present Church can follow that practice. There was no expectation that the Church could be caring financially for its members. And quite frankly, I could not come up with ways she could do that.

I sense that will also be the response to loving enemies, the second mark that immediately became apparent. Everything about the Gospel message revolves around this. Jesus’ followers are to forgive those who harm them, as many as 70 times 7 times. They are to refrain from retaliating when struck. They are to pray for those who oppress them. And they are to love their enemies.

Again, it seems common sense that a community claiming to follow Jesus would commit to nonviolence and pacifism. That was the position of the Church for 300 years. Yet as we all know, there are very few peace churches and many of them are having trouble maintaining their tradition. The best my own denomination can do is acknowledge some Lutherans might be conscientious objectors.

I had not anticipated how disturbing this would be. Two of the most obvious marks of Jesus’ message, the first that jumped into my mind when reading the gospels, were absent in the modern church. One side of me wonders how we got to this place. The other knows very well the history of theology and appreciates what it was trying to do in different time periods.

This leads me to think we should be reexamining our Christian communities in light of the present situation. We have always faced similar issues, but things have become extremely more dangerous in an age of powerful technology. Violence has always begotten violence but now it could doom humanity.

For instance, the argument for self-defense has deteriorated into the right to carry and use a deadly weapon in public places. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus would reject the slogan “The only way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun” with the observation that we would do better talking about how we can make sure neither is carrying a gun. And, of course, the argument applies to nations possessing atomic weapons.

Jesus proclaims a message that addresses our dangerous situation. It is time for the church to discuss how she can be accountable to that Gospel. That surely will mean taking the risk of taking an unpopular position when teaching and witnessing Jesus’ lifestyle. Perhaps being more realistic we should hope more individual Christians would speak and act out Jesus’ message.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.