“What is the final destination of hatred? When you look in the eyes of your enemy and you see yourself?”
Jesus is so unpredictable. He is so “other world.” He flips common reason on its head. He is predictable in this: He seems to ALWAYS do the opposite of what we would do. He says things like: “if someone slaps you, turn your cheek.” He loves the un-loveable and he says that amazing things will happen in you/to you when you care for the poor (Proverbs 14:31; 22:9). BUT then He says to love your enemy. Why? Because it is what defines one as truly Christian. It is what says, “that person is a follower of Jesus.” Why? Because you can’t love your enemy, BUT Jesus in you can. It is a defining moment to ALL when we love our enemy.
A number of months ago I was visiting a country that is less than inviting to people who follow Jesus. There have been martyrs. I know the families and I have stood at the graves. While there I was aggressively confronted by a man who wanted me to renounce the name of Jesus. I told him I would never do that. At that moment two armed soldiers raised their weapons directly at me. In that moment, God gave me a peace I cannot begin to express. He gave me a love for these men that did not make any sense. I stepped toward the man who had zealously approached me and hugged him, told him that I loved him, and expressed that what he had just done to me, I would never do to him. But what I would do was love him, honor him and show him respect.
No, my name isn’t PollyAnna. But I think that Jesus longs for us to do it His way. Sometimes evil must be eradicated, but that should not, as Christ followers, be our first response. In September and October of this past year I traveled quite extensively. I went to a central Asian country to meet “off the beaten path” with 13 pastors. It is not something they would normally do, but they did. Their phones are bugged and they are followed. Their churches are highly regulated and must be registered. One pastor had just lost his church due to regulations. These men were 35 to 45 years old. They had become followers of Jesus after the Iron Curtain came down as young teenagers. Now they are the pillars of the church where they live. They are the “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s” of this part of the world. I asked them what they would say to us in the West? Their response was: “Be prepared. You are not prepared. Persecution will come and it is much closer than you even know.”
What will be our response? Jesus said to pray and to love. He was not flippant in those two requests. He was serious because He understood that this is what would define us and that it was what would win their hearts. Why? Because it is “other world.” It is humble and authentic and it is what Jesus looks like. In early October, I took a friend and we went to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Amman. We walked into “a war.” In many ways it is just the way of life there. We were in the midst of IED’s, Molotov Cocktails, slingshots hurling marbles through the air, bullets and tear gas. It was children fighting children. It was heart wrenching and it was real time. It was the personification of hatred and frustration. But in the midst of ALL of the chaos there are those who would believe that Jesus is the Peace Maker and that His words of loving and praying for those who would persecute us actually mean something. There are the Sami’s and the Salim’s, the Jack’s and the Wayne’s, the Evans, and the Joel’s. They do this at the risk of reputation and, possibly, life. They do this because they believe that Jesus really is enough.
I have a friend, whose name is Don. We have spoken often about the beauty of Jesus without borders. How freeing it is to speak truth graciously and lovingly to others and leave the results to the God of all creation. It’s “the borders” we begin to draw up that complicate everything. “Christ in you is the hope of glory…” (Colossians 1:27). It is amazing what can happen if we just show up…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you…”
Matthew 5:43, 44
This past year I have spoken to large audiences across the USA and abroad, I have hosted people from near and afar, I have buried friends and seen the birth physically and spiritually of many. BUT it begins by simply showing up. As we look into the latter part of this year and into 2016 I have been asked to show up in Central Asia, The Middle East, Holland, and Australia. I have been asked to speak in Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, and Alabama as well as many places across my home state of Washington. I have been asked to walk alongside of men with great dreams (and means) to change our world and others who have dreams of changing the hearts of men through discipleship and mentoring in the corporate world. I have been asked to mentor young, vibrant pastors, and chaplains of college and professional teams and I have been asked to come alongside of those few who are being called to places like Macedonia and Niger. The agenda’s are small because the priority is always presence. By showing up, much will happen and much does happen because one’s presence and the lack of creating borders ALWAYS allows for God’s spirit to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.
But in showing up, Jesus will ask us to pray and he will ask us to love those who do not love us.