Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Muslims, Americans and Jesus Kind of Love

When I was still on staff at the Vineyard Church of Kenner I would speak at the weekend services about once every 6-8 weeks.  On one occasion when it came time for me to speak I was given the text Matthew 5:38-48 as my part of a series on the Gospel of Matthew which we were in at the time.  While I had read these words of Jesus on loving enemies, turning the other cheek, blessing when insulted and so on many times, I quickly realized that I had never, in all my years as a Christian, heard a message on these words of Christ.  I had heard numerous messages on how we should pray against our enemies, on how we need to boycott certain products, or shows, or theme parks, and how we as Christians always need to side with Israel against Muslims when there is any kind of conflict.  I had heard these messages time and time again and never really questioned if there might be a better way, but studying these simple words of Jesus were like a splash of cold water on my soul.  No doubt the reason I had never heard a message on loving your enemies before was because… well… who really wants to do that?  But this is exactly what Jesus did.  He didn’t simply teach about loving enemies but he lived a love for everyone including… his enemies.
Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center

I find myself saddened by reports this week that Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is planning a “Burn the Koran Day” this Saturday.  I am having difficulty understanding how folks who claim to follow Christ can think that burning sacred books of another religion would be an acceptable way to act.  Book burning has never been a very effective strategy for quelling the opposition, but burning a sacred book from another religion, which by the way has an awful lot of good things to say about Jesus, seems to fly in the face of the very teachings and example of Jesus Christ himself. 
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:
  1. The church in America, that we could return to our first love and be that love to the world around us.
  2. 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.   
  3. 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.  


Carlos said...

Great points, and well said. Your post reminds me of the call to light a candle rather than to curse the darkness. Thanks again for the post.

marcia said...

Thank you Crispin for the call to prayer!

randall said...

Right on, Crispin. Preach it, brother! This is the best take on this I have read anywhere so far.

Pi Man said...

Well said, Bro. Thank you for your perspective and passion. TA

Matt said...

Very well said lots to think about in Jesus' teaching on how we are to love beyond what we feel like loving.