Friday, July 29, 2016

Who Is My Enemy?

“Have you any idea what’s going on in the world?!”

The older man’s face is red with anger and a look of disgust is evident in his eyes. I recognize the anger. It is the same angst I witness daily whenever I check my Facebook wall.

It is the same anger I have often felt in my own heart.

But this isn’t Facebook and it’s not Fox News. It’s a Bible study.

The young pastor sitting next to me has opened up this can of worms by suggesting that this may be an opportune time to reach the Muslim people for Christ.

The response? People go ballistic.

But I remember a challenging sermon from the book of Jonah. And so I offer...

“The Assyrians in Nineveh were even worse than ISIS, and God loved them enough to send Jonah.”

Now four people start voicing strong opinions against the pastor and me.

They are acting just like Jonah, I think to myself.

But who can blame them? Or Jonah, for that matter? Jonah hated the Assyrians in Nineveh for much the same, justifiable reasons we hate Muslim terrorists today. They were doing very evil things. He hated them so much that he disobeyed God and took flight (or ship) to the farthest city in the known world.

But he didn’t get very far. We all know the story.  

“Jesus says to love our enemies—” I begin.

“So you think we should just let them come over here and bomb innocent people?” The man with the red face is incredulous; he’s shouting, leaning forward in his seat, nearly standing up.

“Those people place NO VALUE on human lives,” an older woman next to him joins in. 
 “They torture innocent women and children. They are killing Christians in the streets—cutting off their heads!”

According to historical records, the Assyrians were feared throughout the world for their brutality and ruthlessness, such as skinning their victims alive and hanging their skins on the walls of conquered cities.

No wonder Jonah tried to run away.

“I’m not saying we should just open our borders and allow dangerous people in,” the pastor replies in a calm voice. “But most of these people have lost everything because they wouldn’t go along with ISIS and are fleeing for their lives. They are the victims of ISIS. And they have nowhere to go. This is the first time in known history when we have a chance to reach these people with the love of Christ.”

I find myself nodding in agreement, but I seem to be the only friendly face in the room.

There’s so much more to say, and my fingers are itching to dig into the Word, my mouth to start quoting verses. But tempers are running hot and fear has replaced truth.

And then I realize why Jesus said we each must lose our life in order to save it.  Because, as long as we care more about our own safety and security than we do about saving the lost, we will never really be His hands and feet on this Earth.

Am I advocating any kind of public policy on this issue? Certainly not! I’m hardly qualified to tell a whole country what to do. All I’m suggesting is that we tap into that source of love and grace that goes beyond all human understanding before we start attaching labels and condemnation to people.

And if our leaders allow some refugees a safe haven in the United States, will the church push them away or will we show them the love of Christ?

What would Jesus do?  

Go and do likewise.