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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

London: Love your neighbor, love your enemy -- just got more difficult

BK and Layman, I apologize for posting so soon after you posted; I usually try not to do that. But I imagine the internet will be busy today and truly hope people will read all comments today, not just whatever happens to be at the top of the stack. You all already brought out a few of the things I was going to say, so I'll shorten this up a bit.

First of all: My prayers for London and all of Britain. Healing and peace in Jesus' name. Amen.
My support for London and all of Britain: we'll stand with you. I hope we do even more than you expect, if that should be possible.

BK and Layman have already brought up the paradox: that because individual Christians should love even their enemies does not do away with the government's duty to protect the people. I have some faith in Tony Blair, and expect that what he does will be reasoned and appropriate.

Loving our neighbors is the easy part. Loving our enemies is the hard part. And it's not that people think it's too difficult, necessarily; some people think it's repugnant, as if it were supporting or condoning. It's important that our condemnation of the evil should be plain and unambiguous, *especially* as we go that harder path towards loving our enemies. Killing innocents is a despicable act; doing it on purpose and en masse just adds evil on top of evil.

But have you ever noticed what happens when someone treats you with hatred? It is the easiest thing in the world to return hatred for hatred, evil for evil. "Justice." But then what separates "us" from "them"?

There are different levels of this whole thing. I have faith in Tony Blair to act appropriately towards Al-Qaeda on a political level. But just as important is the non-political level, for example how I'm going to act towards some of my Muslim friends that I'm almost sure to see on Saturday. And when I think about that, I keep remembering one thing: after 9/11/2001, there was a Muslim man working the drive-through window of the nearest hamburger place. Everybody was glaring at him. He returned angry and defiant eyes, but he was visibly frightened. By the time he finished getting my hamburger together I felt very sorry for him. When he handed me my things through the drive-through window, and I met his eyes and he saw that I didn't hate him, you could see the lump form in his throat and his eyes mist over.

I hope I can live in the spirit of Jesus enough to do the same with my Muslim friends this weekend.

And I hope that the people of London can forgive me for talking about such lesser worries while they still pile through the rubble. If I had any medical training or particular skills for this type of work, I'd find an airplane and head over to help.

2 comments:

No apologies needed. We are fortunate to have a forum to vent some of our reactions to the events today.

Loving our enemies should not be allowed to cloud our appreciation for evil. We in the West are too quick to rationalize, to explain, to look for root causes, to remind each other to love our enemies. We should face the fact that this was evil and that those who did it are evil. Evil in a way that cannot be excused by human institutions. It is the first and foremost duty of our governments to protect us from this evil. This duty is not simply a police power, meant to ensure our safety. Paul is quite clear that is has a retributive element. The government is established by God to express His own wrath on such evil-doers.

Do I wish that Osama would convert to Christianity and lay down his weapons? Sure, but that's not going to happen. Maybe I'm lacking the gift of faith here, but we are not going to defeat Al Queda by converting them.

On the other hand, you are right that not all Muslims or Arabs should be tarred by the actions of the terrorists. We should never treat individuals differently because of their racial or ethnic or cultural origins.

Hi Layman

Of course it's evil. Thoroughly evil. Do I expect Osama bin Laden to convert? No.

But do I think we can afford to love only those who are not terrorists? Only love those who are not really evil, not really enemies? No. The Muslims who are not terrorists are more "neighbors" than "enemies". But we're called to love the enemies too. Even the real enemies, the ones who want us dead.

That doesn't mean we stop defending ourselves, or pretend the evil isn't really evil.

But even if, when I see my Muslim friends on Saturday, even if they say "Sorry, we think those guys did the right thing" -- I still pray to God that I can walk that line of hating the evil but still loving my enemies. Even as they may plot to take my life.

Remember when Paul had been variously imprisoned and repeatedly flogged by the religious leaders of his day, even tried to stone him to death (=lynch mob)? He said he did it with the hopes he would save some. Not many people have ever been quite as effective as Paul either. Paul got it about loving your enemies. He saw the martyr Stephen die. And became ready to trade places with him.

Context check: I'm not in the least suggesting that the people of London should be prepared to die; the martyr's deaths was brought up in context of loving your enemies, which is not what caused the death of those who were murdered this morning. The martyr's deaths come up for a different reason that's only tangentially related: Christ calls his own followers, from a standpoint of loving our enemies, to love people who truly do hate us enough to kill us.

I would never presume to judge a Londoner on what he's going through right now.

Take care & God bless
WF

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