“You have heard the law that says, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” Matthew 5:43-45 NLT
Are there exceptions to this teaching of Jesus?
A young man with an Arabic heritage, who is a practicing Muslim grabs an easily procured gun, riddles a military recruiting office with bullets, then travels several miles to a Naval Reserve post and winds up killing five US Marines. The public reaction to this incident predictably takes both political and religious turns and twists, incorporates a monumental amount of speculation that immediately becomes cited as absolute fact, and includes a Christian element that is not anywhere close to these words of Jesus in their expression. And while it is not my intention to paint with a broad brush, as many Christians have done with Islam, there is little in the rhetoric that is being spewed over this incident that fits with the words of Jesus which I cited from Matthew 5.
The violence and chaos in the Middle East that is associated with Radical Islam is frightening, and difficult to understand. The superstitions and lack of factual information in both the news media and the social media contributes to the hysteria. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It is very clear that the kind of intensity and depth of emotion that goes in to any religious belief can be destructive to human relationships, and when you throw in beheadings, live burnings, throwing people off high buildings, all because people have not bowed their neck to a skewed religious perspective, there’s plenty of fodder for hysterical reactions, and hateful rhetoric.
The scripture I cited would be considered one of the most clear and concise teachings of Jesus under just about any other circumstance. It seems like a much more difficult concept to understand, or put into practice when your “enemies” are radical Muslims.
Ed Stetzer, of Lifeway Christian Resources, made this statement in a post in Christianity Today:
“Nuance is hard, and loud pronouncements are easy in times of anger, but as Christians, we don’t get to shout whatever rage we feel. Instead, we want the facts, and then we want to follow Jesus in light of those facts.”
The response I’ve seen from Christians, including some prominent and fairly well known ones, to being called out and called to account on this particular issue isn’t good. There’s quite a following of those who are willing to set aside the principles of Christ in order to advocate a means of dealing with Muslims in general, and radical Islam in particular, that is not consistent at all with Christian faith. If we are not careful, this could very well be a place that separates what’s popular in American Christian culture with the truth of scripture.
And it won’t be the only place.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutionally guaranteed right, I’ve seen much in the way of reaction from the Christian community that is not consistent with the teachings of Christ. Oh, the bad-mouthing of “liberals” that is prompted by the radio-deejay pundits has been around for a long time. It’s not appropriate, regardless of how much you might disagree, and it is certainly not evidence of Christlike behavior, nor consistent with what Jesus taught, but the caustic vitriol that has come out since this decision was handed down is just not consistent with the principles of Christ, and neither is the criticism aimed at those who are pointing this out.
The Christian community’s influence in the US is waning, and we know that because the statistics are showing us that it is, and because Christian leaders are bemoaning their loss of influence. There may be a variety of reasons for the decline, and I’d love to discuss them in another forum, at another time and another place. If you can’t be consistent in what you say, and what you do, you’re not helping to advance those numbers.