Yesterday I posted a question on loving our enemies. I didn’t indicate my position or show my hand in any way. I asked the question how are we to respond to the Middle East. We all have various emotions and experiences related to this region of the world. I am taking my fourth trip to the Middle East this fall where I will be training house church pastors and smuggling Bibles. I will take some risk it’s my nature and the more importantly the nature of the Gospel. Tomorrow I will post on how you can get involved. Today I have posted an excerpt from my upcoming book, “Detox…for the Overly Religious”. I wrote this after I talked to a young man who was risking his life in one of the most dangerously countries in the world to be a follower. I was overwhelmed as God’s movement in that country. I had no idea that literally thousands of people were coming to know Jesus and there was an open door for the Gospel in this Middle Eastern country.
It was in this context I asked my new friend how to respond. His response was simple, “Love your enemies”. Here are some of my thoughts that made there way in to my book to be released January 1, 2010.
As you read this please keep in mind I have a son in the 82nd Airborne who is a Fire Support Specialist with a Cavalry Recon Unit serving with the 82nd Airborne. He is leaving in August for his 2nd deployment into Afghanistan. He has paid a really big price already during his first deployment. He recently called me following this weeks Memorial Service for 200 family members who had lost soldiers in the Middle East. It was a somber conversation as you might expect. When I speak and write about loving your enemies I feel that I have much at stake. Here are my thoughts.
“As I left the conference room, my heart leaped with excitement and my head spun with possibilities. My little religious world was being turned upside-down, and images of peace on earth began to dance through my head. Something wholly unexpected came over me as I pondered what I thought I knew about this country—my heart began to be softened for the country. Even though this country is a major supplier of explosives intended to kill our American troops, troops like my son, I know that God is up to something there. Even as I write these words my son deployment has been moved to a new location bordering this country. I can’t help but ask, “What is God up to?” How am I to respond? What I do know is new relationships are being formed. A new vision, Jesus’ vision, is emerging in my heart and a new response began to surface in my mind. I no longer have an excuse for not loving my enemies. The only question left to answer is, How? What does it mean to love your enemies?
My old religious ways tell me to move on, go to church, read a passage, ask God for something I really need. Yet somehow as I move into the ways of Jesus I know that this isn’t enough. I have to go; I have to help. I have heard the Macedonia call. As a follower of Jesus I have to go. Plans are being made even as I write these words. By the time you read these words I will have gone at least once with new plans on the horizon. Loving like Jesus loves, loving our enemies, moves us out of our Facebook networks and MySpace friendships into a hostile and challenging world. It brings new light to the world’s struggles and instills new hope.
For now, loving my enemies begins with going. It is amazing what happens when we go. I used to try to figure it all out on my own, but I’m beginning to learn that going means simply following him. He will show us the way as we go. Another aspect of losing my religion, I no longer have to be in control. I no longer have to have an agenda other then to love like Jesus loves. I used to think that God changes the world through our going, now I am learning that God changes us when we go.
When my team goes on this upcoming trip, we will visit those who are following Jesus and his ways. We will pray for them and find ways to encourage them. We will spend time training their pastors. We will take the money we might normally use to clothe our bodies (often from clothing made in sweatshops in impoverished countries) to buy Bibles for distributing to those who are spiritually hungry. We will forge new relationships, overcoming our fears and prejudices. God will change our hearts, and we will become more like Jesus.
That’s just the beginning. We will go back, and when we do, this new love for our enemies will draw us in. We will take greater risks. We will go deeper. We will get more involved. Our love will be more apparent. Some will even give up their lives in order to go.
Then we will go back again and again. Each time, our regard for ourselves will diminish, as our love for our enemies grows stronger and stronger. This love will become our cross and on this cross we will give our lives. This is the Jesus way.”