Thursday, September 10, 2009

Love Your Enemies

I was going to post about this when I first read about it, but listening on Air1 this morning reminded me of the pastor in Arizona who is praying for President Obama to get cancer and die like the late Senator Ted Kennedy. I don't know where to start other than grieve that many who call themselves Christians agree with him. One, in fact, brought a gun to one of the President's town-halls on health care. A caller to Air1 said he didn't "necessarily agree" with the pastor, but "sees nothing wrong with praying that God will remove evil from high places."

So here we see the problem with mixing religion and politics- the label of opposing political beliefs as 'evil'. However, the Bible tells us this is not the case. Paul, writing to the church in Rome wrote, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." (Rom 13:1) Keep in mind, Paul is writing to the same church that within a generation would be dipped in tar and burned alive to provide lighting in the Colosseum while their brothers and sisters in Christ were fed to lions. This church existed under a government that practiced infanticide and did not value what we'd call traditional marriage. Yet Paul says even this government is established by God.

Well just because we 'submit' to those authorities doesn't mean we have to agree with them. Of course that's true. But disagreeing is a far cry from wishing death or even calling someone evil. Even if our president (or anyone else for that matter) was truly evil in his entire being (can anyone really believe that?), how should we treat that person? Again, Paul gives the answer to a Roman church who justly feared for their very lives.

"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary:
'If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:19-21)
And earlier, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil." (Rom 12:17a)

The caller this morning said he wasn't afraid of being called crazy for standing up against evil and even went so far as to suggest those who don't are 'watered down' Christians. Well there are a lot of instructions in the Bible on how to deal with evil that we can turn to. I personally like this one from Jesus and I'd recommend Pastor Anderson reads it: "But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39) Though I admit that's a bit of a cliche. But interestingly most of the time when Jesus is talking about evil, he's talking about our very own hearts. In other words, we need to check ourselves.

But there's more. Again Paul writing in Romans after describing "all kinds of evil" in Chapter 1 begins the second chapter by writing, "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." (Rom 2:1)

If you want to be militant, you could look at the "armor of God" in Ephesians 6 where we read, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12) But even here, the struggle "is not against flesh and blood" and the evil forces are spiritual, not physical. So we use weapons "not... of the world" (2 Corinthians 10:4ff).

But again, this battle is personal. We do not fight on others' behalf. "Our struggle..." When it comes to facing evil personally, we are instructed to "flee the evil desires of youth..." (2 Timothy 2:22) to "get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent..." (James 1:21) "do not conform to the evil desires you had..." (1 Peter 1:14) to "turn from evil and do good..." (1 Peter 3:11) to "not imitate what is evil..." (3 John 1:11) and to "resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7) for "the Lord will rescue [you] from every evil attack." (2 Timothy 4:18)

I see nothing in here that advocates fighting evil in others or wishing harm on anyone. It's a shame that a pastor (the word means shepherd) is spreading such false doctrine. But we shouldn't be surprised. "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." (Matthew 7:15)

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