Tag Archives: love your enemies

Do we Christians really live as followers of Jesus in the Spirit?


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How would the world look if all who call themselves ‘Christians’ and affirm that Jesus is Lord would take verses like the next ones foundational to their every-day life and to every decision?

How would the world have looked if people who claimed to be ‘Christian emperors’ or kings over ‘Christian countries’ filled with ‘Christian people’ would have meditated on verses like these every morning and did everything to let the Spirit transform them in such a way that this was the ‘normal’ for everyone?

Why, for those who dare to call ourselves Christians, is this so often not the ‘normal’, but do we derive our ‘normal’ from the fallen world around us because we need to be ‘realistic’? Don’t we believe that the Kingdom of God is a reality that will stay when this reality has faded?

Don’t we have to stick to what’s more real? Isn’t our world just a ghost compared to what is to come, and is the way of life laid out in these verses more real than our world now in a sense, even though its hard for us to see this and to align ourselves with the coming Kingdom.

 

Luke 6
27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. 31 Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Are we even among ‘those who are listening’ that are addressed here?

It is said elsewhere that we will be known by our love as Christians. I must say I don’t always see that. I do see a lot of seminars in Christianity, about leadership and being a good Christian man and be victorious in Christ and whatever. Where are the seminars that help us find ways together to love our enemies, give to those who ask, resisting violence with love and not hate? Why don’t we do everything in our might to grow into what is described by Jesus here?

I know want to be sure as protestants that we are ‘not saved by our works’.  But isn’t the goal to be the sort of people that love God and our neigbor with everything that we are? The kind of people that would populate heaven (or the new Earth), the kind of people that are at home in a place were all evil is taken away?

Are we different as Christians? Are we known as Christians because we are ‘kind to ungrateful and evil people’? Are we known to be merciful because we believe that Our Father is merciful?

Galatians 5
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.

How many of the ‘works of the flesh’ are not present in modern Christianity, even apart from the hidden sexual sin and horrible abuse that’s going on.  Things like “hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions and envying” for example, can sometimes be on the foreground without anyone even noticing them. And they seem to have been since the early councils…

Note also that the freedom spoken about in Galatians 5:13 is the opposite of what our modern individualist sense of freedom (especially in the way some Americans are obsessed with it). We have the freedom not to indulge in our own longings but to serve the other in love!

Why are we as Christian so often even worse than the ‘sinner and tax collectors’ Jesus talks about? why don’t we assume it normal to go beyond this and really love our fellow humans, whether they are our friends of enemies, so people see Gods love through us?
Why are we as Christians so often distracted with stuff that go against the words of Jesus here, or are very clearly in Paul’s list of ‘works of the flesh’.

I can ask myself, but it would be very different if I as a Christian had always had examples of people living like this around me and finding it as normal as Jesus and Paul and the first church did… The world indeed would be very different if all Christians would find what is described in those 2 bible passages as normative and reality-shaping.

These verses  could be normative and reality-shaping for Christians.

These verses SHOULD be normative and reality-shaping for all of us Christians…

Can we please please please take this stuff more serious as Christians?  This broken world needs it.

Holy Spirit come!

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Another side of the situation for Christians in Egypt


Vinoth Ramachandra shared this text coming from Egypt, which gives another view on the situation in Egypt. The source is the Bible society of Egypt here. Another contact in Egypt (an Anglican priest) commented ‘I agree with the content’.

Egypt has an encouraging story that is not being told in much of Western media!

When more than 85 Churches and institutions were viciously attacked and burned (a profound blow of disgrace and humiliation in this culture of “honour”), the non-retaliation of Christians was both unexpected and unprecedented.

Pope TawadrousImmediately following these attacks, the leader of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II said that if the destruction of these properties was the price Christians in Egypt have to pay to get a free Egypt, then that sacrifice is worthwhile!  His – and all other Christian leaders’ messages – have helped the Christian spirit of forgiveness to be powerfully demonstrated in Egypt.

This practical application of Christ’s teaching by millions of Egyptian Christians should have made worldwide headline news!

Many Egyptian Christian leaders are reminding their flock that the Church consists of the people of God, Christ’s body, and not the buildings in which we worship. Thus the Church can never be destroyed!

Egypt is not on the verge of civil war! On the contrary, most Egyptian Muslims and Christians are more united than ever in their common vision for the future, as together they have rejected extremist “Political Islam,” and are working towards the noble task of establishing a civil society which recognizes all Egyptians as equal citizens.

Egypt, however, faces incredible social, economic, cultural and political challenges as it tries to rebuild after three years of radical change and confusion. As a result many Egyptians are weary and pessimistic about the present situation in their country.

One of our projects is a special edition of the Sermon on the Mount (in which Jesus presents principles of His Kingdom which reflect the aspirations of many Egyptians at this time), and a variety of tracts taken from it, for wide distribution.

Yes, in the face of war, oppression, destruction of their property and church buildings those people share the sermon on the mount, out of which come the golden rule, the ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ and other beatitudes, and the command to love enemies. Seems like those people are really taking Christ seriously…

I am impressed and praying for my brothers and sisters in Egypt!

Bram

Love your enemies!


Jason Barr posted some interesting quote lately, from the didache, an old christian book from the same time as the New Testament:

If you love those who hate you, you shall not have enemies. – Didache 1.9

There was some discussion about how this does not apply to the devil, and indeed, I do believe that both the didache and Jesus speak about human enemies, not about the ‘Powers and authorities’ Paul describes.

A person that is against us is not the real enemy, but a human being created in Gods likeness and image. Seeing the person as the enemy is a distraction from the real evil… If s/he is channeling something evil then the evil is first and foremost destroying that hostile person him/herself. So we are to love all humans, and the real enemy is not of flesh and blood, but spiritual… Evil powers are never the friend of our human ‘enemies’, but their enemies as much as they are ours.

Likewise is the idea of non-violent liberation theology, that a real revolution sets both the oppressed AND the oppressor free. This is the real revolution, away from the never-ending spiral of violence… But even we as Christians seem to not be able to believe this… Which brings me to the ending quote:

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried – G. K. Chesterton

what do you think?

Shalom

Bram

ps: coincidently I just read a very good article by Brian Mclaren on the subject of enemy-love: In responding to our enemy imitatively, in catching our enemy’s hostile spirit, we can become an even worse enemy to ourselves. We can do ourselves more damage than the enemy ever could.   Recommended reading!

do we need a hell in order to forgive our enemies????


Reading up on the universalism controversy I was kinda shoqued by a blog post by a bloke called Kevin DeYoung, of whom I don’t know anything, but it seems that he’s a rather vocal (neo)calvinist. I have no idea if he’s known or not, and frankly I don’t care at all, the inner kitchen of this kind of aggressive calvinism is as far from my spiritual bed as are the pope and the magisterium…

Now the guy, in a response to Rob Bells alleged ‘universalism’, quotes 8 reasons why we need hell and eternal punishment (or more precisely Gods wrath), which he seems to quote straight out of some book he has written. I don’t think I completely agree with one of those, but I was kinda repulsed by and utterly disagreed with the second one:

we need God’s wrath in order to forgive our enemies. The reason we can forgo repaying evil for evil is because we trust the Lord’s promise to repay the wicked. Paul’s logic is sound. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross and or will be punished in hell. We don’t have to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.

Maybe I’m outing myself as an anabaptist now, but I find this reasoning to go against the message of Jesus himself, since this goes against the commandment of enemy-love, and against Jesus’ last prayer ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’, which was echoed in the last words of the early church’s first martyr stephen ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’. I think those two examples of enemy-love show us that we need Love in order to forgive our enemies. We are to want forgiveness for our torturers at our moment of dying. I suppose that such a thing requires the help of the Holy Spirit, but the whole thing is that we need to have the mind of Christ!

(and I think the Rom 12 passage is exactly about that btw. )

I don’t agree at all that the fear of hell as motivation will ever lead to loving God more. It might scare people into some kind of conversion, but I’m not convinced it will be able to make people love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We should have a positive gospel, not a negative one: Jesus is Lord, death, sin and evil are conquered, and He’ll make all things new. A gospel that says that we are saved from God by Jesus, as some versions of penal-substitution-only does not at all sound like a loving God to me.

The bible says God is love, not God is wrath, and love is more important than faith and hope says Paul, so his wrath will be in function of His love. Surely, if God loves us he will have a lot of whitehot wrath; He will be pretty mad at the things that are going on in this world, and causing destruction in our lives and all of his loved creation. If He’s to make all things new a lot of things are to be erased, in my life, and in the whole of the world. But the good news is that Jesus is doing that, and that in the end the whole of creation will be renewed. At the final judgment all evil will be erased. And probably some creatures will keep on hating God and not be able to live in this renewed world, or even cease to exist if all evil is erased from them. If God will allow them to exist outside of His love or if they will annihilate in His presence I do not know. I do know he wants none to be lost.

So we need some concept of hell, unless we do away with human free will and say that in the end everybody will bow and accept Jesus as Lord. But I’m not calvinist enough to be such a Christian universalist, sorry… And if we ‘accept Jesus’ out of fear and not out of love, we might still be in problem if we have to spend an eternity with God in all His glory… I don’t think we win anything with converts who are more interesting in escaping hell than in following Christ and being reconciled to their savior. What you with then with is what you win them to…

shalom

Bram

Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you..


(This post is written for the ‘bless those who curse you campaign‘)

I’ve been a Christian all of my life… I grew up as a pentecostel kid in a post-catholic country that happened to be evolving into one of the final stages of the european dechristianisation. Looking back I learned a lot from both my pentecostel and evangelical (and later as a teenager vineyard) church , and the liberal-sliding-to-atheism catholicism that I encountered in the religion classes in my catholic school.

I learned a lot about the bible, the cross of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the pentecostel church. From my catholic school I didn’t always learn that much about those things, but what remained from Christianity was an emphasis on values that were distilled from Jesus words. An emphasis on loving our neibor, which lead to social justice issues and what I now would call creation care, which was not the most important subject for most people in the pentecostel church… (The world was gonna burn up soon, and Jesus would come to rapture us)

I know now that both sides are important. We canot claim to be Christians without believing in the cross and resurrection of Christ, and we miss a lot if we don’t believe that the Spirit works through us, and neither does it make sense to claim to be a Christian when you don’t care about our fellow humans, or Gods creation. So from those 2 sides I got parts of the puzzle. But still there might have been missing something.

The fundamentalists like to take everything in the bible, as long as it’s just something that need to intellectually believe, or something that can be useful to point out sin in other so we as real believers can separate us from them. But like Shane Claiborne says, most fundamentalism is ‘selective fundamentalism’, and some of the most imortant words seem to be not included in the list of bible verses that are important to believe litterally.

Saint Augustine said something like a bible interpretation that does not lead us to growing further into living out the double law of loving God and our neigbor is always wrong, and one who does, how misguided our ways of thinking might be, is fulfilling it’s purpose… But that’s not the way I’ve seen people read the bible. There are lots of ‘infallible truths’ that are straight from the bible, but it the end they are just interpretations, and someone else might look at the same verses in a totally different way… But one of the verses that I have not seen highlighted very much by fundamentalists and gatekeepers is ‘love your enemies, and bless for those who persecute you’ from Jesus himself in the sermon on the mount.

What is interesting is that if we do this, Jesus says in Matthew 5, we will be called Children of God. Earlier in the sermon on the mount this expression is used for the peacemakers. (Yes, he really did say peacemakers, and NOT cheesemakers!)

Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more? do not even the Gentiles the same?

What a different world it would be if we would indeed live differently as christians and if we all would really follow Christ in our lives, and not just try to have faith in the right orthodox statements of faith. I’m not at all goint to dismiss Christian orthodoxy; it’s important that we know what we believe in, and stuff. But that’s only half the story… We have to live it out.

Jesus never says to make believers of the one true orthodoxy out of the nations, he says us to go the nations, and make disciples. And if a rabbi talks about following him, that’s not just clicking ‘follow’ on a twitter account. It was following the rabbi wherever he went, and he could give you a valuable lesson out of every little thing that happened. It was following with your whole life!

And the core of Jesus message is that law of love. Paul even seems to say that Love is even more important than faith 1 Cor 13… He can not at all mean that faith and hope are not hugely important. No, they are, but love is even more important, and without it even the biggest faith doesn’t matter… And Then there is that little epistle of James, which tells us that a faith without works is dead. And what is the expample of those ‘works’? Taking care of our neigbor, living out the law of love. Works of love!

I has never been Gods will to just have a bunch of people who are just believing all the right Truth, and that’s it. The Truth is important just because it’ll transform us and the world around us when we live it out, because it advances His Kingdom. But if we don’t let it work inside of us, it won’t do a thing. It’s like believing that the sheet music of a symphony ‘is beautiful’ and ‘rightly composed’. If we don’t get together with instruments to play the symphony, we will miss everything, no matter how beautiful the sheet music is…

So Christianity is a way of life. The first Christians called it ‘the way’. And the main componet of the way is the law of love, the double law of love towards God and others. And this is not only restricted to those fellow humans who happen to like us. No, Jesus explicitly tells us to even ‘love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute you’. To repay evil with good, which might be the only way to stop the cylcle of violence…

This is one of the hardest things in the Christian faith to live out. But I do believe that it is of unmeasurable important to do this! Jesus didn’t just come to forgive us in a mystical way, but to transform Creation. It’s true that this world is still under the veil of evil and decay, but we as Kingdom people are called to already embody that reality that will be once true, when all evil will be banished…

So where are our seminars and conferences on enemy love? Where are the books with 30 days of learning pragmatically how to love our enemies the way Jesus told us? Where are the bible fundamentalist who take the words of Jesus litterally and rejoice loudly when they feel persecuted for their faith?

And before I get charismatic and/or calvinist objections, I’m not saying we have to do this all by ourselves. We need the Spirit of God guiding us. But that’s a symbiosis. When we take steps, God will help us, maybe even in a miraculous was… A good example of this is the famous story ofrry Ten Boom and the concentration camp guard. Her family had been hiding people who were running from the nazis in the second world war, and when they got caught they were deported to concentration camps. She and her sister were taken to Ravensbruck, where her sister dies, and she got a trauma…

A few years later she is preaching in germany, about forgiveness, and suddenly one of the guards, who had treated her cruelly, was there, asking to hear from her that he was forgiven. It seems impossible for a human to do such a thing. But the miracle of the love of God came only when she, knowing both that forgiving was the only optian for her,- and that she could only forgive as a act of will, accepted to shake his hand regardless of all feelings.

It’s nice and comfortable when we reduce the Christian faith to a system of beliefs and theological statements about how Jesus’ death will help us to not go to hell but to heaven after this life. But that’s not what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God! And the Kingdom of God requires us to live in a Kingdom way, and not in the ways of the world.

The way of the Kingdom life can be found in places like the sermon on the mount. Jesus’ sacrifice was a victory over evil, death, sin and hell, but it was also the ultimate example for us of how far the law of love can go! There is no reason at all to place those 2 aspects of Jesus death against each other, they are connected and should not be separated!

So, I already asked the question; how can we learn more how to love our enemies? When are we going to give ourselves for Jesus’ Kingdom, instead of ‘taking the country for God’.

Let us pray

Our  Father
who is in heaven
Let Your Kingdom come
Let Your will be done
in every aspect of our lives
as in heaven
teach us to listen to Your Spirit
fill us with self-giving love
not only for those who like us
but to our enemies
so that they can see the Kingdom in us
whether they like it or not
Make us light and salt
to live out your law of love
and bring on Your Kingdom
so that Your name, Father
will be glorified
Amen

shalom

Bram

This post is part of the Bless Those Who Curse You Campaign’s Synchroblog. Others blogging on this topic:

David Henson at Unorthodoxology: Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

George Elerick at The Love Revolution: Toxicity

Brian Ammons at Nekkid Ressurrection: Loving Those Who Curse Us

Tia Lynn Lecorchick at Loving Our Enemies: Where to Begin?

Mark Sandlin at The God Article: A Call to Political Authenticity for Christians

Danielle Shroyer: “A Prayer for our enemies….And for Us.”


On praying for president Obama’s death and Christian black magic…


I’m puzzled again about Americans…

I must say, as a belgian I don’t understand much of American politics, and neither do I understand the role that something that is for some weird reason called Christianity plays in it. Nor do I allways understand what is Christian about american consevative politics…

The dichotomy between republicans and democrats is just weird to someone living in a country where there are more than 5 parties. And Obama would not even qualify as ‘left’ here, a bit less right than Bush maybe, but still… Everybody calling him a socialist doesn’t know anything about socialism at all… The dichotomy in politics between liberals and conservatives is even stranger, because the liberals here (the party together with the ectreme right party I’ll never in my life vote for) are the ones obsessed with the same kind of free -market capitalism (lassez faire jugle law capitalism more correctly) that the American conservatives believe in, which is pure economic darwinism (‘struggle of the fittest’) But the conservatives are supposed to be against darwinism? WelL I don’t get it but nevermind…

But some other things are beyond my head. All this anti-Obama hate speech (even on facebook) from conservative Americans is really odd. From roaming on the internet in the Bush era I though one shouldn’t even be too critical ofthe president (Romans 13), but that was only before there was a non-‘conservative’ president I guess… Now I didn’t like most of Bush’s politics (as did most people on my continent, including much evangelicals) and I am not always too enthousiastic about Mr. Obama, but overall I like him al lot more than Bush (and he is less lethal to the third planet of the star called sun) but if we are critical of a president, we criticise his politics. We don’t want evil to happen to his person.

But the the thing that worries me is the (mostly so-called humorous) call to pray for the death of president Obama. There is a facebook group protesting another group called “DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN” Now this is supposed to be humor I guess, and if anyone has this view of God that alose is troubling, so I hope no-one realy will pray like this. But still there is so much hate speech on this group (and pure nonsense, and freakiness). And the troubling thing is that it isn’t the first weirdness in this direction that I see. The ‘psalm 109:8’ bumper stickers with a request to pray for Obama are really dark if you take your bible and read the verse in context…

1 I praise you, God! Don’t keep silent.
2 Destructive and deceitful lies are told about me,
3 and hateful things are saidfor no reason.
4 I had pity and prayed for my enemies, but their words to me were harsh and cruel.
5 For being friendly and kind,they paid me back with meanness and hatred.
6 My enemies said,“Find some worthless fools to accuse him of a crime.
7 Try him and find him guilty! Consider his prayers a lie.
8 Cut his life short, and let someone else have his job.
9 Make orphans of his childrenand a widow of his wife;
10 make his children beg for food and live in the slums.
11 “Let the people he owes take everything he owns. Give it all to strangers.
12 Don’t let anyone be kind to him or have pity on the children he leaves behind.
13 Bring an end to his family,and from now on let him bea forgotten man.
14 “Don’t let the Lord forgive the sins of his parents and his ancestors.
15 Don’t let the Lord forgetthe sins of his family,or let anyone rememberhis family ever lived.

I don’t know what I have to do with such psalms, there is a lot of hatred in them, and it is directed towards the enemies of the psalmist, who most likely were evil and unrighteous people (vs 16: e was so cruel to the poor, homeless and   discouraged that they died young.) There is a place for this kind of feelings in the human experience, but Jesus teaches us to do otherwise… And this surely is not a prayer to pray for your president.

Now whatever you say of president Obama’s politics, this has crossed a lot of lines. First as a Christian, we are supposed to pray for leaders, not for their death… And when Paul wrote this the Roman emperor was persecuting Christians, so any comparison with Mr Obama wall fail. If you want to pray for the American president, fine, pray for wisdom, pray for insight, pray for the Spirit to guide him…

But praying for his death? I may have missed something, but I never heard of people praying for the death of GW Bush, (or even Saddam Hussain for that matter). None of the more progressive and left American Christians I’ve met has ever said anyhthing about praying for GWB’s death. Now I hope that all of this is nonsens and satire, and that I’m speaking about people that do not exist, but anyone who would genuinely be praying for the death of the president has crossed the line, and has fallen into dark black magic disguised as Christianity.

Yes, black magic, that’s how I would call the use of prayer to try to kill someone. What is the magic the bible forbids? It is using supernatural power to get more power yourself, and it is mostly connected to manipulation… Now abusing the Christian God for something like this is foolishness beyond the folly of Simon the sorcerer who thought to make personal profit out of the Holy Spirit, and it won’t work either, but the idea is still there: the invocation of supernatural powers to destroy people is black magic.

Christianity and black magic have nothing to do with each other. I may sound fundamentalist here, but we should not tolerate this kind of Christian black magic in any way. It goes against everything Jesus stood for. It goes against the love of our neigbor and our enemies. Even as humor it goes to far. To wish someones death is as bad as to kill someone, to paraphrase the sermon on the mount…

Pray for the peace in America, some things are really weird over there…
Pray for president Obama, for wisdom, and guidance from the Spirit, and protection…
Pray for the Churc to become more like jesus, without being tied to weird politics…

Shalom

(we need it here on planet earth)

Bram