The most dangerous force in the world is not Al Qaida, nor some Special Ops force, but the church that truly knows it is loved by God. The gates of hell will not prevail against such a church.
The movie To End All Wars is a moving tale of how Christian love conquers hate inside a prisoner of war camp during WWII. It is one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. More powerful than such a movie, though, is living out the ideals such a movie conveys: can such Christian love conquer hate inside and outside church walls in our own day?
How do you and I respond to people's indifference and hostility toward us? Do we seek to return the favor, or do we pray in view of our Lord who cried out from the cross concerning his enemies, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing?" (Luke 23:34) What will get us there? We can take comfort from the fact and live in light of the reality that Jesus does not get even with us; rather, he makes whole: "It is finished" (John 19:30). How then shall we live?The way the system often works is that we expect and even demand retaliation and retribution. We may even feel good when we watch it in a movie like Unforgiven, starring Clint Eastwood. But that good feeling may evaporate when we consider Eastwood's character's haunting remark, "We all have it coming, kid." We all have judgment coming, but many if not all of us welcome forgiveness when it is offered to us.
We often think of forgiveness as weak. But actually, true forgiveness of one's enemies, as in To End All Wars, is the scariest force in the world. There is no way of computing it. It makes no sense. It destabilizes and undermines all strategies of confrontation, even if one seemingly loses in the end.
But those who live in and out of Christ's love will not lose in the ultimate end, for as Paul proclaims in Romans 8:31-39, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Divine love pouring through us is the most dangerous force in the world because it does not belong to this world's order, but confronts and contradicts and overwhelms it in view of the end. Such love from above as revealed in Christ extinguishes the cycle of hate, whereby it loses its grasp on people. To end all wars, we must continue to try on the scariest though scarcest and most special force of all--love.
This piece is cross-posted at Patheos and at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. Comments made here are not monitored. To join the conversation, please comment on this post at Patheos.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.