I have two entries mulling around in my mind for tonight. I’m going to give this one a go first and then try the other one if my mind isn’t mush yet 😉
OK, so I’ve been reading The Powers That Be by Walter Wink. Fascinating stuff. It was recommended in the footnotes of Irresistible Revolution, and it really develops Shane Claiborne’s ideas of embracing pacifism without being passive. Good stuff.
One of the sections that I’ve really been enjoying in this book is all about God’s favor and the idea of God hating our enemies. Here’s the funny thing about that thought. God is love. He loves everyone. We know this. Let’s take a look at Luke 6.
Love for Enemies
27″But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32″If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
OK, so we’ve all read those verses a thousand times, right? So how is it that the church, and particularly “the religious right”, seem to forget about them when it comes to policy-making? God is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked”, but are we? Ha. So often the church is too busy focusing on a God that will favor the good based on their righteousness. We know from scripture that the rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked. Why does the church forget this so often? Walter Wink talks about it:
God’s all-inclusive parental care is thus charged with an unexpected consequence for human behavior: we can love our enemies, because God does. If we wish to correspond to the central reality of the universe, we will behave as God behaves–and God embraces all, evenhandly.
Well, crap. That’s not something I do very well.
Our solidarity with our enemies lies not just in our common parentage under God, but also our common evil. God “is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” We too, like them, betray what we know in our hearts God desires for the world. We would like to identify ourselves as just and good, but we are a mix of just and unjust, good and evil. If God were not compassionate toward us, we would be lost. And if God is compassionate toward us, with all our unredeemed evil, then God must treat our enemies the same way. As we begin to acknowledge our own inner shadow, we become more tolerant of the shadow in others. As we begin to love the enemy within, we develop the compassion we need to love the enemy without.
Let me just say that I have found this to be so true in my life. It is at my most humbled and broken moments that I can love those who hurt me. It is so much easier to have compassion for others when you realize just how much compassion you need.
If, however, we believe that the God who loves us hates those whom we hate, we insert an insidious doubt into our own selves. Unconsciously we know that a deity hostile toward others is potentially hostile to us as well. And we know, better than anyone, that there is plenty of cause for such hostility. If God did not send sun and rain on everyone equally, God not only would not love everyone, God would love no one.
I am finding this to be so true in my life. I have been through a lot of hurt in the past year, and I feel like God has really used this time to show me all of the compassion that I have (undeservingly) received. Â He has also helped me to love those who hurt me. I am so far from perfect that it is not even funny, but I am really enjoying the journey. I love serving a God who loves everyone without them having to act a certain way. That’s how I want to be too. Its an amazing journey to try to get there, and I am thankful for God’s unending patience with me. He knows I need it!
I love hearing voices like Walter Wink’s in the Christian community, because I think this is an area where we could really stand to be challenged. Â If we think of God as an angry deity who picks sides, then how will we ever see the image of God in those who are our “enemies”? Â Its so hard, but we know that we were ALL created in God’s image, even those who hurt us the very most. Â It is only when we can see that piece of God in them that we can reconcile and live the kind of life that Jesus told us to live.