“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
As I was scanning a book I’ve read in the past, a snippet that I’d forgotten jumped out at me again. The evangelist and speaker Tony Campolo made a habit of asking students at secular colleges what they knew of Christianity. Almost every time the question was asked, the overwhelming response was, “Jesus said to love your enemies”. As I was just reading Matthew 5 last night this fortuitous collision caused me to think.
This is the expectation of the world toward us as Christians. I am of the opinion that the only people who really care whether we as Christians watch R rated movies, use obscenities in conversation, or consume alcohol socially are not non-believers. Other Christians are the only people really concerned with those kind of marginal ideas of holiness and righteousness (I am not saying that our stances and opinions on those things are unimportant, nor am I downplaying the need for people of character to lead within the ranks of Christendom – I am saying that most people who don’t ascribe to Christianity really don’t care about that stuff). The things that non-believers pay attention to, the issues that peak their interest and build either a favorable and authentic, or unfavorable and hypocritical view of Christianity is how we handle commandments like this. Do we really “love our enemies?”
I guess that the issue is straightforward enough today for me to leave that very simple question with us all. I have to ask myself, “do I love my enemies?” And I need to be prepared to understand that the impact of my life just may be hamstrung depending on the answer I give to that question. Am I waiving signs or spewing acidic speech regarding those I disagree with? Am I more concerned with how many times a co-worker that I don’t get along with cusses, or am I more concerned with my lack of daily prayer for him and his family?
People do watch Christians. They are looking at us. I just wonder if they are looking at different things than we think they are. Perhaps the things that we’ve made our central focus, when it comes to righteous living, really aren’t all that important on the scale of witness and evangelism.
Just a thought.