Saturday, June 29, 2013

This Week, The Bible Takes On New Meaning

A few years ago, in a Sunday school class I was teaching, one of the students asked the question, “Who is my enemy?” At the time, he and I came to the conclusion that we really didn’t have anyone we could call our enemy. Oh, there were people who didn’t get along with us as well as they should’ve, but they weren’t our enemies.

It’s a lot easier to follow Matthew 5:44 when you don’t have any enemies:

…love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you…

After the week we’ve had, that verse has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I put a few comments out there in the social media channels concerning gay marriage and abortion, both of which were heated topics this week. It was like holding a lightning rod over your head in a storm. And yet, the comments directed at me were tame compared to what I heard some other people had to put up with. One blogger mentioned that he had received a threat via e-mail. About the worst I received was a comment from someone telling me I should shut-up. One man made the statement, “I’m an atheist, so I don’t answer to anything but myself and the laws of the land.”

I definitely had the feeling that I had come face to face with my enemies this week. But the question is, how do you love someone like that? I don’t think Jesus meant that we should bake them a cake. But I do believe he meant for us to take action, not simply to have feelings for these people. That action is not the one that our enemies want us to take. Our enemies want us to shut-up and leave them alone. That isn’t what Jesus did. His enemies tried to shut him up and he kept on preaching. Then a day came that they came to arrest him and he went with them willingly, stretched out on a cross, and died for their sins.

How do we bless them? The interesting thing here is that Jesus didn’t say to “praise” them, but he said to “bless” them. Praise carries with it the idea of telling someone, “you did a good job.” To bless someone carries the notion of seeking future good for someone. Based on what I’ve seen from my enemies this week, there’s not much I can praise them for, but I can seek good things for them in the future. The beginning of that is that I can seek for their salvation.

And we most certainly know what it means to do good to our enemies and to pray for our enemies. It may not be an easy thing to do, but we know what it means.

But the verse is not complete without also looking at Matthew 5:45, “that ye may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven. For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

I thought it was interesting this week because one Christian man made the comment, “I think God is through with America and is ready to send his wrath on the just and unjust.” I wondered if he was thinking of Matthew 5:45 when he said that. But as I consider this passage, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to conclude that God is through with America. I woke up this morning and watched the sun come up. Guess what. It came up over the houses of my enemies as well. And the next time it rains, I’ll praise God for sending it, but my enemies, who do not fear the Lord, will receive rain as well. God is very slow to give up on people and Jesus gave that as the reason we should be slow to give up on our enemies. Yeah, I know that Sodom’s sin was the reason God destroyed it, but he would’ve saved it if there’d been ten righteous men. Can you name a city in America that doesn’t have at least ten righteous men?

No, I don’t think God is through yet. I think we have some hard work ahead of us, but he’s not through. It is for that reason that I must love my enemies, bless those that curse me, do good to them that hate me, and pray for them that despitefully use me and persecute me. And if I do that, then the day may come that I will call some of those who are my enemies, my brothers.