The power of technology has made it so that we are able to communicate across the world in seconds; sharing pictures, words, videos, streaming live content and giving us access to information that even just 10 years ago was still just a pipe dream. The crazy amount of good that can come from technology has already been seen as viral fund raising helped raise awareness and over $100 million for research into ALS - a disease I'm sure most of us knew nothing about 4 weeks ago.
Churches are able to use technology to stream services all over the world, Skype and FaceTime let you connect with friends and family instantly over wifi and kitten videos abound on YouTube to keep you smiling all day long.
The shadow side of our technology is also very dark and we've seen this in the last few weeks as two American journalists have been beheaded by ISIS on video and spread all over the world for everyone to watch. In years past, incidents like these would be 'easy' for news outlets to 'hide' or not report on. Many of us may hear about bad things happening, but never actually see the atrocities against fellow humans ever played out before our eyes. Not so any more.
When face to face with these images, videos and threats of more violence, strong emotions are stirred at the injustice, cruelty, evil and horrific acts that one person could do to another - especially when done as an act of a "holy" war. I find myself turning to Jesus and crying out with pain, grief and anger against the injustice in such a public execution. "WHY?!?" is usually the first thing that will leave my lips in prayer - why would this happen? How could someone do this another fellow human? Why is it happening? Why aren't you stepping in?
I am far from an expert on foreign affairs, however, I continue to get a check in my spirit whenever I find myself siding with the media. My thoughts drift into ones of swift punishment, revenge and "justice." And perhaps, at national level, there is a place for a military - after all, Paul wrote in Romans 13:4, "But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." However, when I ask Jesus how to respond to these reports instead of listening to the media, I am faced with a response that leaves me thing, "Jesus isn't serious, is he?"
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your NEIGHBOUR and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
Jesus couldn't possibly be serious, could he? Love these evil people? Pray for them? This isn't just an idea, proverb or wise and unattainable piece of advice - he spells it out pretty clearly that in doing so, we become children of the Heavenly Father.
Jesus not only gives us the command to love the people who are our enemies - he gives us the example to follow, as if to say, "Watch what I do and do the same." He doesn't give us a task that he isn't willing to do. We can often forget that we were once enemies of God. That our actions kept us distant - always in rebellion and living in evil. Yet, it was while we were still in that state - unlovable enemies, undeserving of any act of mercy, grace or love - Jesus came to save us.
His actions were 100% selfless. As a recipient, I was 100% unworthy of his actions. Yet he still did it. Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-8
"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death--
even death on a cross!"
Was Jesus serious in his response to love your enemy? You bet! Jesus was a radical that taught and lived out his teaching in such a way that infuriated the powers of his day. His ideas were the root of rebellion against the ruling authorities and were so risqué and troubling that it wound up in him be put to death by the mob that at one point was cheering his name!
Imagine this: In the face of wondering what to do with the ISIS conflict, President Barack Obama calls Jesus to come and give a speech to the US Congress. Republicans praise the choice of speaker and Christians gather around, cheering their Messiah coming to reign and set the world right. Once the crowd has settled down, Jesus dives into his teaching: "blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek and merciful. The pure in heart and the peacemakers and those persecuted for righteousness..."
People become restless. Not what the king was expected to say here. Where's the justice? The swift repayment? The action plan to mobilize the army?
"You are the light of the world," the crowd lightens up a bit. They like thinking of themselves as light to the world. "No more eye for an eye. Don't resist the evil person. Don't hate your enemies, but love them. Pray for them. Be better than them by showing your love. Don't repay evil with evil but love them."
The crowd is in an uproar at this point. We're faced with evil, and the Prince of Peace is telling us to love in response! Anger boils over into rage - not at ISIS anymore - but at the innocent one who teaches compassion and then models it out. Jesus was crucified for this kind of thinking and acting and he is serious that you need to do the same.
Next time you find yourself angrily cursing out ISIS, wanting swift revenge and air strikes. Ask Jesus what his advice to his followers would be. Pick up the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-8 and then put it into practice. You'll change your world, guaranteed.
When you listen to this prominent Christian's opinion, do you see it aligning with Jesus' teaching?
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.