Peacekeeping with a Sword
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
I must take this moment of transparency to make a confession. When I first heard that renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens had cancer, for just a fleeting moment my sinful flesh took over and I thought, “yes!” When a self-professed God-hating writer and debater makes public statements saying that Christianity is an evil that must be destroyed, it’s easy to feel unsympathetic towards him. Thankfully, my moment of spite passed quickly and I became convicted to pray for Mr. Hitchens. I have been praying ever since for his healing and for his salvation. It has got me thinking about our roles as Christians.
The Bible paints a picture over and over again as the Christian life being one of peace, and yet it does not shy away from references to armor, swords, wrath, and battle. Matthew 16:18 gives us an illustration that the Christian life is not one of passivity, but rather an offensive (vs. defensive) struggle. We are to have an aggressive posture towards the world.
This apparent dichotomy between loving someone and fighting with them is what I see explained in the verse that I used to open this post: “Love your enemies…” I have read this verse dozens of times, but only today did this pop out to me. Although God has called us to love our enemies, he has not called us to befriend them, or to assimilate into their culture. He says to love them, while still recognizing that they are enemies. He has called us to influence the world and to be sure we do not become part of it.
When I see our boys play soccer, I see a nearly perfect model of how this plays out. There are a couple of the varsity players that I just love to watch. They take their jobs on the field extremely seriously. They have every intention of winning the ball. They are aggressive and they play hard. I have seen them get hurt, and I have seen players on the other teams get hurt because of them. I have also seen them get a ref’s attention to help a fallen member of the other team by intentionally kicking a ball out-of-bounds, and forfeiting a shot at the goal. I’ve seen them help them up and demonstrate concern towards that player, even though the injury was a direct or indirect result of their actions. That, I believe, is what we are called to be as we fulfill our mandate to be imitators or God. Do we stop doing battle with secular influences, ungodly politics, and people like Christopher Hitchens? Heavens no! We must continue, but with righteous indignation – not just indignation. To pursue my soccer analogy just a little further, I will add that the players on the other team, the enemy for the sake of our discussion, are just as hell-bent on winning the ball as our guys. They have a fierce determination as well, and are willing to sacrifice themselves for it. The real enemy has that same goal. We should not be deceived into thinking that “the world” will be more accepting of Christianity, or more accommodating to our faith, if we give a little in our convictions. Replacing the word of God for cultural relevance is an invitation for more ridicule from the secular world. In 2006 another famous atheist, evolutionist, and professor, Richard Dawkins went on an all-out assault against Christians who attempted to befriend the “scientific community” by embracing evolution. He just ripped them to shreds and sent them packing. He called them to the carpet and put it right in their face. In response to the Christians acceptance of evolution he said that their “position seems to me to be fence-sitting. They half-believe in the Bible but how do they decide which parts to believe literally and which parts are just allegorical? It seems to me an odd proposition that we should adhere to some parts of the Bible story but not to others. After all, when it comes to important moral questions, by what standards do we cherry-pick the Bible? Why bother with the Bible at all if we have the ability to pick and choose from it, what is right and what is wrong?’” To his credit, Dawkins was steadfast in his convictions and was adequately prepared to defend them against a wimpy Christian community waving a white flag.
It is important for Christians to be ready to defend our faith. I believe we should be taking stands for the word of God, and our sons and daughters should be seeing their moms and dads doing it. Pick a battle. Let your kids see you fight it. Tell them you might win, you might lose, and it may not be obvious either way. Tell them that people might hate you for fighting for what you know is right. It’s OK. It’s more than OK – it’s our honor. Tell them verses like 1 John 3:13: “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you”, and John 15:18: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Tell them that someday your sons will need to fight battles for Christ and your daughters will need to marry men who are willing to do the same. They should accept no less.