One of the first Sundays we moved out here to the country, before we found a new church, we planned an extremely simple family worship time. We sat outside, as the horses grazed in front of us, I played the guitar and we sang some of our favorite songs. Then I remember Jason reading the Sermon on the Mount. It was all going blissfully well until he read the part about loving your enemies. At this, our young warrior, Thaddaeus, revolted.
“I will never love my enemies,” he stated emphatically. And Jason and I were left with one of those impossible parenting situations where you want to try to water down Jesus’ words and say something like, “Well, what he really meant by that was…” or “This doesn’t apply to us today…” This is an upside kingdom for sure! And to explain that kind of crazy love to a six year-old, let alone to myself, was a near impossibility.
But how can you ignore the blood red ink? Not just because Jesus said it? But because he lived it and died it. He loved his enemies.
In these last days, as our country swells with racial hatred, as terrorist attacks wring out fear and rage, as our culture grows increasingly more wicked, the divisions between Christians have never been sharper. What has happened to us? But as I look closer, I must ask myself, what has happened to you, Kristin?
This summer I reread the timeless treasure The Hiding Place, biography of Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian woman who was taken prisoner to a German concentration camp for helping save the Jews during World War II. I had read it years ago as a young girl, but this time, this summer, the book came alive as never before. It began to stir my heart to something that had been missing.
Corrie ten Boom stood naked with her older sister Betsie, watching a concentration camp matron beating a prisoner. “Oh the poor woman,” Corrie cried. “Yes. May God forgive her,” Betsie replied. And once again, Corrie realized that it was for the souls of the brutal Nazi guards that her sister prayed.
As I read that story, my own heart echoed the words of my Thaddaeus, “I will never love my enemies.” How can someone in a concentration camp love the murderous Germans? It is astounding and nothing less than a mighty act of God. And yet, it is obedience to Christ.
What’s at stake for the Christian church in America these days? Is it freedom, morality, security? It’s not freedom, for we are already free! It’s not morality. We know the culture, this world, the forces of evil are actively working against morality. This has always been a battle. And it’s not security, for even if they kill us, we are safe forever with Jesus.
What’s at stake really for the church in America?
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Jesus’ words from Matthew 24:9-14
What’s at stake is our love. And I can already feel the subtle effects on myself. The thinking that my life, my family’s life is most important and self-preservation must be fought for.
Wash me with your Word, Oh Christ! Yours is an upside down kingdom where the poor are blessed, where the hungry, the grieving, the despised because of the Son of Man are blessed and awaiting great reward. I think of my brothers and sisters who are persecuted. The Christians in the Middle East and Africa and China and North Korea… And then you say, “You who are willing to hear: Love your enemies.” You must bring us to repentance on this issue. You must cause our hearts to pray for our enemies. For the evil in our world, for our nation, for ISIS- Change our hearts that we may see them as people in need of a Savior. I repent, Lord. I am willing to hear.