Our church just recently got into another discussion on peacemaking. Specifically on some of the more radical statements Jesus made in regards to how we are to treat our enemies. Such as this one:
"If you love those who love you, what reward do you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Jesus)
What this passage makes clear is that there is a calling to love that goes beyond what the world would expect of anyone. He says that the worst people to us are capable of, and usually live, the same level of love for their own families and people that we do. He riles up the crowd by asking, "Are you really any different than them."
How about this one:
"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)
Again, Jesus ups the anti on what loving others really means. the phrase "but I tell you" giving an indication that he's about to say something different than what we would expect. and the "love your enemies" definitely living up to the thought.
There are certainly many more quotes and passages that I could throw at you at this point. The problem is that the whole radical love for even our enemies thing so often gets puffed up into some sort of 'ideal' rather than a true 'calling.' And Jesus' radical teaching on peacemaking becomes just some nice thing that he said which we use to counteract the Old Testament bloodshed, rather than letting it be a challenge. We all too often shy away from actually living in any practical way.
For this article I'm going to assume that you've made up your mind on a calling to peacemaking through Christ or not. (Maybe you've never really given it any though, in which case now is a great opportunity). But in the meantime there's another problem facing us would be peacemakers which is not so often talked about. And this is the fact that we live in a society in which the question "Who is my enemy anyway?" is almost more prevalent than "who is my friend?"
We live in a peaceful society far detached from Jesus' Jerusalem filled with Roman occupation and tax collector traitors. In Jesus world who the enemy was was obvious, and he had some radical thoughts on how to treat these people. (Radical as in unexpected, not radical as in violent or revolutionary). In our world the very idea of having a personal 'enemy' seems almost unchristian unto itself. Even though Jesus assumed, even promised that we would have enemies if we followed him. So we're left with some of the greatest teachings of Jesus seeming kind of useless to our everyday lives since the 'enemy' seems so absent from our experience.
But I don't believe that 'enemy' needs to be interpreted as we think it should. But more importantly, I think that we need to realize that even though our enemies may seem scarce, the kind of radical love that Jesus wanted seems far too scarce as well. What I want to give you in this article is not a large philosophical discussion about pacifism. Instead I want to give one idea which, if we all started to live it, I believe would actually begin to bring Jesus' radical peace-creating love into this radical love starved society. Here it is:
Just bringing this up makes me feel old fashioned. But the truth is that gossip is one of the most destructive things that you can have in a peaceful community. If you want to check out what the Bible says about it, here's some proverbs. Prov. 16:26; 18:8; 26:20. Look them up, but you can also take my word for it, scripture is pretty universal that gossip is a pretty destructive quality.
And let's be clear. I'm not limiting this to the kind of gossip that we still imagine from middle aged, empty-nesting stay at home moms from the 70's. (Not to offend anyone, I respect you stay at home moms from the 70's). We need to realize that this is something that we're all capable and guilty of. This comes out in the griping about that weird co-worker. Or the way you all make fun of that one friend when they're not around.
Sure, it all still feels pretty innocuous. And the real problem is the fact that it can be fun, and even build commodore at the expense of only one person. Scripture even calls gossip "choice morsels." And beyond this, we cover up what we're really doing by claiming that we just have to 'get out our frustration,' or that we 'just concerned' about the person in question. There's almost no recognition of the fact that we're doing something destructive.
The calling for those of us who take Jesus' calling to peacemaking seriously need to see that our calling matters in these 'smaller' situations as well. It may oftentimes be uncomfortable, but we need to realize that if we're going to show radical love we're going to need to show some radical honesty. Only honesty with the person we're frustrated with, or those we're concerned for is going to bring any more actual peace.
Sometimes it's difficult to approach someone with this kind of honesty. Not to mention that it can be equally as uncomfortable to But I believe that our calling to stand out in love and the renewal of relationships may require some sort of conviction in this area.