How Should We Treat Our Enemies and Political Opponents? #239 + Shoutout to Queensland!
Hello dear friends, and happy Saturday to you. In the states, we’ve got fires on the west coast, double hurricanes about to hit the southeast, and coronavirus lurking all around, but God is on His throne, in His temple, and Jesus is beside Him praying for His followers. By opening this way, I want to acknowledge and shout-out all of our international listeners, and we’ve got quite a few of you all out there. Thanks for listening, and welcome aboard to the bloke or blokette from Queensland, Australia (Brisbane, maybe?) Who downloaded 100 episodes of the show yesterday. Shoutout to Toby Flitchett of Queensland too, who took debris left over from last year’s devastating Queensland floods and made an awesome work of art/sculpture out of it as a memorial of sorts. Good on ya, mate! Today’s Bible readings include 1 Samuel 14, Psalms 30, Jeremiah 51 and Romans 12, which is our focus passage.
Let me ask you a series of pointed questions. Do you have any enemies? Maybe not a personal enemy, but a person or group of people who are opposed to you somehow? Maybe they are so different ideologically that you are convinced they are hurting you or your group or your country? Almost all of us at least have ideological enemies. Do you hate Democrats? Liberals? Republicans? Conservatives? Trump Supporters? Trump enemies? Your sports rival? Fans of your sports rival? Your boss? The person who looks down on you on social media? A mean/annoying/harsh or critical relative? Your ex? Do you hate any one person, or a certain group of people? Because if you do – or if you are even close…then today’s podcast is for you. In a year where ‘unprecedented’ has become a cliche, I have observed an ‘unprecedented’ amount of hate come from those who claim to be Christians. Usually that hate is in the political realm, but sometimes in other scenarios as well, and very often, the justification used is either something like A. You have to fight fire with fire. or B. This group or person is bad and they are advocating bad things and leading our country/city/group/whatever in a bad direction and our anger is justified. They must be stopped, no matter what the cost!
Except, as we will find out today from Paul, and as we have already heard many times from Jesus, Christians can’t be that way. Full stop. No exceptions, no excuses. Followers of Jesus have a very specific ethos as to how we are to treat enemies – personal enemies, ideological enemies, political enemies, etc. We have clear commands in this regard, and not a lot of wiggle room, and this is incredibly important. Listen to how Jesus explains it:
43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus is calling us to a much higher life of love than those who don’t follow Him. Remember, they will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). People of the world hate their enemies and do bad to them – not so with Jesus-followers. Instead – we bless those who curse, love those who are our enemies and pray for them. Not in a snarky, holier than thou way either – in an obvious, kind, genuine and authentic way. As Jesus said – almost EVERYBODY loves those who love them. Terrorists, criminals, swindlers, arsonists, Auburn fans and others. 😉 Let’s read Romans 12 and see how we are to behave towards our opponents and enemies.
I want to reiterate, please forgive me if I’m putting too fine a point on this, but I perceive that many, many Christians in 2020 have chosen to outright abandon the “love your enemies and do good to them” teachings of the Bible in the realm of politics. These passages apply to your political enemies and opponents too. You might be thinking – “well, how will they know how wrong they are, or how evil they are if I don’t attack them viciously in all of my posts?” How will they change their political ways and begin to believe like me? I have two things to say to that: #1 Browbeating, insulting and attacking people almost never leads to change – ever…in fact, it solidifies their view that they are right more and more! You want to convince a political or ideological opponent that they are right? Blast them as hard as you can – you’ll come across like an angry idiot, and they’ll be thankful they aren’t like you, hardening them in their belief. #2 It is God’s kindness that leads people to repentance, so says Romans 2:4.
I hear your protests, and sense some of your anger. “Liberals/Trump supporters/Republicans/Democrats aren’t worthy of my love,” you might be saying. Well, you and I aren’t worthy of God’s love, either – that’s grace, it is the foundation of Christianity. We don’t change the world with our anger, our attacks, our snark, or our rage – but with the good news of Jesus. We don’t overcome evil with evil, says Paul – we overcome evil with good. Let that sink in – you do NOT overcome evil with evil. You do NOT fight fire with fire. You overcome evil with good!
Romans 12:21 21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
This doesn’t mean that evil won’t be punished, so don’t worry about that. You and I aren’t God’s agents of justice and vengeance – that is neither our calling, nor our job. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord,” (vs. 19) So let’s focus on our job, “loving our enemies and doing good to them.” Let’s rejoice that God is on His job (Vengeance is His) and let’s get out there and overcome evil with good – not keep trying to overcome evil by attacking it in post after post on social media.