"But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven"
A Facebook friend of mine recently had a conversation with a True Christian(tm). It looked like this.....(NSFW language warning)
To prove his unassailable moral authority he helpfully utilized graphic curse words to better illustrate his point at how morally corrupt those who disagreed with him were.
In the full sermon that Jesus is preaching in chapter 5 in Matthew we can partially boil down one of the main points to be how our actions do not change that the attitudes and thoughts of our hearts are equally culpable. Again and again Jesus expands the written law to include our innermost being and behavior. Here he again flips upside down the "love your neighbor" idea to point out that to love like God has called us to love means extending love towards even those who disagree with us to the point of being our "enemies"
I can only imagine what this "True Christian"(TM) would say to the Romans if he and Jesus swapped places on the cross. Who wants to bet it would not be "Father, forgive them"?
The Gospel tells us that even when we were ENEMIES to God, Christ loved us enough to give his life for us. It doesn't say, because you felt bad enough about your animosity towards God and realllllllly wanted to change, Jesus was like "All right, I guess I can do something for you now......"
While I was His enemy. He died for me. He died saying, "I love you, even while you nail me here."
In a polarized culture full of a never ending assault on personal and corporate peacefulness, we are always on the defensive and the assault.
Their wrong views(evil views)
Our right views(moral views)
There is no qualifier in Jesus's statement here. He doesn't say, "Be loving so that they stop being so bad". You are simply called to love with a God centered(Agape) love that does not expect agreement or changed behavior in return.
Here is the kicker. The proof of your salvation is affirmed in how you do treat those who persecute you. Did you catch that? When we do not show love to our enemies, we are showing that our claims to being children of God may very well be a lie we tell the world AND ourselves!
This week the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan just got suspended for expressing his biblical views on sin and homosexuality. The response of the Christian interwebs is sadly unsurprising. One popular blogger, Matt Walsh(full disclosure, I really enjoy and align with about 99% of what he says), just penned a response entitled "Dear A&E, Congratulations, You Just Committed Suicide" Guess what my knee jerk reaction was? YESSSSS!!!!!!
Then I read Matthew........
I don't blame Matt's response really at all. Because 12 hours ago if someone had asked me to pen my response to the whole thing, it probably would have read just like his.(obviously with less talent and pizazz....) We fall into this trap all the time. We experience "persecution"(real and otherwise) and we bring out the big guns. We are right, so we will prove we are right by destroying those who are wrong.
What is wrong with us?
Why should we be convicted by the challenge Jesus gives us? Because we are so often just as bad as those we attack for being bad.
The way of the Cross does not call us to be "winners" in the great cultural debates of our time. It calls us to be gracious and LOVING as we get our teeth kicked in.
There is no limit to the degree in which we have been loved. There is to be no limit to the degree in which we show love. Even when we speak truth to those who hurt us. Do we speak because of love, or because we want to win.
Here is the challenge for me and for you today. And we will start it on a small scale. Who is a person who you feel has kicked you over and over and over again? Who has taken from you without remorse? Who could care less if they have hurt you? Go to the Cross and love them deeply. Pray for them. Care for them with a heart that breaks for them. And, if you speak to them about your disagreements....lets keep the profanity bottled up.