Archives for category: Ecclesiology

If I were to describe the gospel of Jesus Christ in two words I’d go with ‘enemy love.’ Boiled down into these words are the essential concepts of sin and falleness- we are enemies of God- and yet John 3:16 is also true, God’s disposition toward us is that of love and salvation.

Jesus both teaches and embodies this concept of ‘enemy love.’ His Sermon on the Mount is rich with it, and his death/resurrection from the cross prove God’s heart toward his enemies (mankind).

So this then is the default mode of the Christian faith: enemy love. This should be characterized in Christian ethics and moral behavior. It should be perpetually evident as we live out the Great Commission to the world and as we grow together as the Church.

I offer to you three passages to help demonstrate this idea of ‘enemy love.’ There is a progressing line of reasoning through them. It’s fairly obvious, I hope you’ll see it and that it changes how you view the Christian faith.

Luke 23:33-34 “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'”

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Colossians 3:13 “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

That’s enemy love. That’s what Christians are supposed to embody at all times, to all peoples. Individually and corporately.

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What implications does this have for how we treat fellow Christians? Unbelievers? How does this change our attitudes toward killing and self defense?

What is more important in the kingdom of God: Protecting our lives by killing our enemies? Or doing as much as we can as Christ’s ambassadors to love our enemies, in the gospel fashion?

I don’t see enemy love as much as I’d like in the American church. We love the American way much more than Christ’s way of enemy love. But I’m totally on board with changing that, it’s time to flip some tables in the temple.

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I love America.

I’ve seen the Grand Canyon at sunrise, I’ve been in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, and I climbed the Grand Tetons.
I stood at the feet of the World Trade Center before 9/11, I hugged a Giant Sequoia, I’ve toured Washington D.C.,and I love the movie ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’.
I’ll be darned if West Michigan isn’t one of the most perfect places to grow up!
I am very blessed to have enjoyed all these things.
And so I love my home, this ‘grand experiment’ where I grew up in safety, without fear of hunger or thirst or freezing or being killed.

This love I’m describing, it’s called patriotism. It is natural and healthy for a community of people to feel it.
I am patriotic!

That does NOT mean I am nationalistic.
I don’t believe America is the ‘best nation’ in the world, as if such a thing could ever exist.
We (humanity) are all trying to make do with the best we’ve got: America gets somethings right and other nations get other things right.
Nations come and go, some last a long time and other die out quick. America won’t be around forever and THAT’S OKAY!

It’s okay because America isn’t the end all/be all of history.

Jesus is.

In the Great Commission Jesus commands every Christian to make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). This command forces Christians to look beyond their patriotic, or even nationalistic, tendencies for the Kingdom of God.

Jesus calls Christians to love the Gospel more than their home-nation.

Jesus > America

I love Jesus more than I love America.

That changes the game.
I still celebrate my earthly home, but as a foreigner living in foreign country (Eph. 2:19; Heb. 11:13; 1 Peter 1:17). I have higher goals now, an eternal perspective.

The Gospel oriented life trumps the American life in many areas.
Materialism, consumerism, instant gratification, bigger cars/bigger homes/bigger computers/bigger burgers… such things are American to the core and not of Christ or the Gospel.

And perhaps most of all, the call to make disciples of all the nations trumps the drums of war beaten by the nations of the world.

I will not kill the enemies of America because the enemies of America had their sins paid for on the cross (Romans 5:8).

And the one who paid those sins, the one I call Master, Savior, and Lord, he told me to bring them the gospel of grace and mercy, of reconciliation and healing, of salvation.

That is something America can never offer.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'"
My pastor (Steve Kopp) preached on this today, spending the bulk of his time reviewing the core values of our church related to the imperatives of the Great Commission: to make disciples, baptize, teach, and obey. I love my church!
As he preached I began to see something in the passage I hadn't caught before. I was struck by the implications of 'make disciples of all nations' and what that would mean in its original political climate and also ours. It seems to me the Kingdom of God doesn't only cross national allegiances, at some level it must usurp them!
For example, my nation may ask me as a citizen to fight its wars against other nations. However, the Great Commission demands that I make disciples of all nations. This is a critical impasse of allegiances. How could I as a Christian, in good conscience, fight a war against those I am command by Christ to make disciples of? And yet this is exactly what a majority of Christians have done since Constantine...

This isn't to say the Church has to create its own military or political reality. By definition it is a political reality, but it is one very different than the world has ever seen! Christians don't... shouldn't... conquer by dominion or violence, but by loving our enemies and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ! It's so radically different that it's easy to miss for those of us suckered into the world’s way of doing things. When the nations demand we kill for whatever paradigms of justice they've erected to justify violence we must resist! We must resist standing by the truth in love, inviting all nations to the table of Christ! Then we shall be known as peacemakers instead of stooges of the state.
Christians, remove the blinders we've allowed to slip over our gospel! Our political allegiance is first and foremost to the Kingdom of God and the teaching/ways of King Jesus! 

Matthew 20:25-28 (ESV)
"But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (ESV)
"Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."