By Ben Cabe
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The most impactful thing you can do as a Christian is suffer without loosing your Christianity. This fact donned on me over the weekend. My wife and I just bought a house. And I was contemplating what we could do to positively influence our neighbors. My mind raced over several options. We could have them over for dinner . . . but nothing makes that act uniquely Christian or even influential . . . Well maybe I could help our elderly neighbors with lawn work . . . but I know tons of people who don’t profess to be Christians that help out their neighbors more than people that do profess Christianity . . .
Well then, I thought to myself, I’ll just have to love them like Christ loves them. And that’s when it hit me . . . In order to do this I have to be willing to love them regardless of who they are or what they do. This should be a life-altering truth. It’s proclaimed in the Bible time and time again and yet I never allowed it to make any difference in my every day life. If there’s one thing that Jesus assures his followers in the gospel, it’s that they will suffer. But in the midst of this suffering, Jesus says, bless those who persecute you and pray for those who despitefully use you.
As Christians we are called to be little christs. We are called to endure the depths of human agony and do so joyfully because we know that our suffering, when offered back to God through prayer in humility, will lead to fruition, not just in our lives but also in the lives of those who persecute us. Here’s why this truth hit me like a semi-truck going 70 down the freeway: the only action that is uniquely Christian is to love your enemies.
I used to read the “love your enemies” passage and think to myself, well, I don’t really have any enemies. But I’m beginning to realize that I let the semantics determine whom I love. I may not have any personal enemies. That’s fine. But we are called to love everyone. You know, that guy that cut you off this morning . . . love him . . . pray for him . . . You know those people that just cause anger to burn in your chest? For me, it’s people like Westburo Baptist Church . . . Well we are called to love them . . . to pray for them.
And can I just say something. This term, “righteous anger” that I see thrown around . . . it’s a really dangerous term. The reason it’s dangerous is because typically when someone uses it the subject of their anger is still the person committing the act, not the spiritual forces of evil behind the act. Is there such a thing as “righteous anger”? Absolutely. But do not use it as a “feel good” excuse to be angry with someone whom you are called to pray for and love. One example very practical example would be President Barack Obama or even the Boston Marathon Bombing suspects.
Our hearts should burn with love for these people–with compassion. They need our prayers. Lord, have mercy on me because I am the worse out of us all. I am not saying I’m getting out scot-free on this issue. It’ hard. Very hard. Because the truth is, if we want to bring people to Christ we have to act like Christ. I used to often pray, Lord, let me make an impact in the world for you! What I thought that looked like was making a feature film in the name of Christ or perhaps writing an awesome blog post. That’s not what it looks like. And the Lord has had mercy on me by not answering that prayer. Because what we are praying for, when we ask for opportunities to take Christ to other people, are trials. Suffering. Because in order to take Christ to other people we have to be Christ.
The martyrs of the Church understood this. And I believe that’s where Christ is calling us: martyrdom. And with the way things are progressing in our world today martyrdom may not be too far off from a reality in our own country. Lord, have mercy. The truth is, if we can’t be little martyrs for Christ by loving our enemies, or our neighbor when they chop down a tree and it lands on our house, then how can we ever expect to stand for Christ when our life is on the line?
Practicing little martyrdom, denying self and loving our enemies (or neighbors), is how we practice our devotion and love for Christ. Lord, have mercy on me. And when we pray to be a “bright light” in this dark world what we are really praying for is martyrdom. Suffering. And yet . . . joy.
One last thing. In order to be capable of loving our enemies we must first be able to forgive our enemies. And in order to be capable of forgiving our enemies, we must first practice forgiving our brother . . . As Anthony Bloom put it in, Living Prayer, “To forgive one’s enemies is the first, the most elementary characteristic of a Christian; failing this, we are not yet Christian at all . . .”
If we want to shine the light of Christ we have to practice dying. First, we die to ourselves. And this is a life-long practice that manifests itself every time we feel we have been wronged–every time anger burns within us. We are given then little opportunities, when our spouse or sibling or neighbor upset us, in order to practice dying. And joyful suffering, loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, are all ways that we show Christ to the world . . . and if there is ever a time that the world needs to see Christ . . .
. . . it’s right now.
Lord, have mercy on us.