The Christian ethic is designed to startle people. A Biblical life is to be lived with a genuine desire for godliness and holiness and such a zealous pursuit of God that even our enemies take notice. This ethic of love is not without clear and specific measures and order. God has not only commanded through the Scriptures the way in which we demonstrate this startling love, but he has also perfectly demonstrated this ethic through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Christians truly live like Christ, others take notice. Below is an excerpt from an early letter describing Christians of their day.
…They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.Excerpt From The Epistle to Diognetius
Reading those words one cannot help but be struck by the Biblical love on display. The ability to honestly live out that kind of startling love in the midst of horrendous persecution is only possible from a community that is walking in profound depth with Jesus Christ. Detached from an intimate walk with God and failing to be fueled by prayer, we simply resort to the normal humanistic method of dealing with those who disagree with us or harm us, hatred.
One of the New Testament’s most outrageous statements concerning the Christian ethic is on the way we are treat our enemies. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:43–48 (ESV)
What a profound concept. Have you ever considered the cost of actually choosing to love your enemies. Romans 12:20 goes further and says, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…” This is an other-worldly love that requires such humility that most will never choose to actively practice it.
Enemy love is not the way of the natural man (the man apart from Christ). As it is written in Romans 5:7-8, “or one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is Christ working through a person that allows them to love their enemies.
Commenting on our current cultural moment in the midst of an election in turmoil, Tony Evans recently said the following in a sermon,
“What we are seeing today especially among Christians is us building walls against one another because of government. We’ve allowed government to divide the church and that is an agenda from Hell,”Tony Evans
Early on Tuesday, when it looked as if Donald Trump was going to run with the election, I turned to social media to scan people’s thoughts and opinions. My list of friends is all over the place politically and so there were those who were celebrating and excited, while others were fearful and mourning. Both sides are expected in any competition. We take our sides, stand on our convictions, and hope our team wins. When it comes to political competition, so much is wrapped up in ideology and ethical dogma that the deep veins of emotion seem to pump rage and frustration all the more. This is not necessarily wrong. As Christians, our politics is always shaped by our belief in the dogma of God’s Word.
However all across Social Media I see Christians not only condemning their friends that voted a certain way but demanding an end to their relationship. This is not only making an enemy out of those with political differences but then actively choosing to hate your enemy. It is pure vitriol. And all of this – very often – is within the Church!
Again – I say – we are to hate sin! Romans tells us to, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” And some policies are purely evil. This is not a call for the Christian in any way to lack courage or boldness to stand up for truth and for what is right. It is certainly not a call for Christians to be quiet and in step back from meaningful conversation on the issues, or to fail to bring anger over evil policy into those conversations where necessary. Christians must powerfully engage and bring the full weight of our Christian ethic into the political space. This is however a reminder for Christians that Jesus was not joking when he commanded us to love our enemy.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.Romans 12:18 (ESV)