Let’s remember that in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry the dominant religion in the Roman Empire was a form of paganism that combined worshipping ancestors, idols, and temple prostitution with a civil religion that viewed the Emperor as the very son of God. If there was ever a religion at odds with the teachings of Jesus it was Rome and yet Jesus did not once pick a fight with Roman religion. Jesus was simply about his father’s business, bringing the kingdom of God to bear in this world through healing the sick, setting the oppressed free, loving the outcast, and preaching the good news.
Hegel, the German Philosopher once wrote, “What experience and history teach is this — that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.” Unfortunately the same can be said of the church. From the days of Constantine Christians have been picking up their swords to fight and kill those of other religions and many times other Christians with differing views. The truth is much of the tension we see today between Islam and Christianity no doubt goes back to the crusades when Christians, ignoring the teachings and example of Jesus, willingly participated in the killing of untold numbers of Muslims and Jews. I can’t help but wonder how differently history might have played out if the majority of Christians would have actually endeavored to live these teachings of Jesus concerning loving enemies.
There is no more scandalously beautiful picture of God in the Bible than when Jesus, dying on the cross, prayed “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” In the moment when Jesus was facing the wrath of fundamentalist Judaism and the brutality of the Roman Empire he didn’t hate in return or retaliate. The sacrifice of Jesus in that moment seemed like absolute weakness to the rest of the world but it was the very power of God destroying once and for all the curse of sin and death. Jesus kind of life and love doesn’t ignore evil but it does not perpetuate evil either. If this pastor Terry Jones from Dove World Outreach Ministries goes ahead with his International Burn a Koran Day he will only be adding fuel to the fire which will result in perpetuating evil. What's worse is that he is failing to recognize our true enemy, the one who loves to see Christians eaten up with contempt, arrogance, and hatred for others.
I will close with some lyrics from U2 that I ran on a recent post that seem particularly poignant at this moment:
“They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you
And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you
…Jesus can you take the time
throw a drowning man a line
peace on earth” From Peace on Earth by U2
I ask that you would join me in praying for the following:
- The church in America, that we could return to our first love and be that love to the world around us.
- For the situations of contention between Muslims and Christians in this country whether the proposed building of the Islamic Community Center near ground zero or this National Burn the Koran Day. Pray for the people on all sides of this conflict. Pray that God would reveal himself and that the true enemy, the god of this age who blinds the hearts of men, would not prevail.
- Finally let’s pray for our own hearts to be filled with the love of God and empowered by the Spirit of God that we could truly exemplify the Jesus kind of life and love to the world around us today.