On the one had we are to call sin sin and call sinners to repentance. On the other hand, we need to love our enemies. Those who would reject us, ridicule us. Those who would call us intolerant, bigoted, and hateful.
So how do we respond to a challenge like same-sex marriage or abortion? Ask some Christians and the response is to dig the trenches, string out the barbwire, and load the rifles. We are going to make war against our enemies. We are going to die on this hill.
Yet Jesus didn’t respond that way. He called sinners to repentance and sought the lost and destitute. His teaching was hard: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Hundreds abandoned his ministry when he narrowed the requirements to follow him. But he still loved sinners. He didn’t abandon them. They abandoned him.
But those whom Jesus fought were the religious leaders. Those who should’ve known better. He told Nicodemus, “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?”
Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
He said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.”
His harshest words he reserved for the hypocrites in the cloth. Because of their self-righteousness.
Not so with repentant sinners. To the woman caught in adultery he said, “Go, and sin no more.” Jesus embraces the broken. But they knew they were broken because God called them to repentance. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
However, he suffered and died at the hands of sinners — the very people he called to repentance. And he promises the same fate for those who are courageous enough to call themselves Christians …
Courageous enough to call sin sin, and yet courageous enough to love their enemies. To live in community with them, to extend a hand of support, friendship, and hope. To build relationships that last.
My fear is that when we board up the windows, stockpile groceries in the basement, and get in skirmishes over peripheral issues we’ll become the hypocrites. Jesus may reserve for us the words “I knew you not.”
Moreover, it’s okay to die over the non-negotiables. But how we die matters, too. Not in Crusade-style combat, but rather in humble service to our enemies. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Missionary Jim Elliot carried a gun but refused to shoot when his life was threatened. He loved his enemies so much he didn’t want to rob them of the opportunity to repent. Elliot was obeying the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We must want for our enemies what we want for ourself: repentance, mercy, and peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”