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How Can I Follow Jesus in this Time of Hate? By Loving My Enemies.

How Can I Follow Jesus in this Time of Hate? By Loving My Enemies.
We’ve seen horrifying things this weekend. Nazi banners, shamelessly unfurled just a short drive from the nation’s capital. Armed gangs of white nationalists in the streets of an American college town. Unchecked violence. Murder in the name of radical hate. All this comes as a reminder that white supremacy is one of the founding doctrines of the United States. Our nation remains captured by the demonic influence of systemic, generational oppression of non-white – and especially black – people.

It should go without saying: White supremacist ideology is not merely mistaken. It is evil. It is anti-Christian. White supremacy is a blasphemy against the image of God in humanity. It is impossible to embrace white supremacy and to be a follower of Jesus, the crucified Jewish Messiah.

American racists often hide behind a veneer of Christian piety, but white supremacy is utterly incompatible with the way of Jesus. The Nazis understood this. In Nazi Germany, and in many other countries where other versions of fascism emerged, Christianity was actively corrupted, subverted, and opposed where it dared to challenge the authority of the fascist state. Adolf Hitler’s inner circle of rogues and radicals were generally atheist or pagan, preferring the false gods of their imagination to the humble Jew who died on a cross.

The the quasi-fascist Donald Trump regime is similarly anti-Christian in its convictions. It’s impossible to love God while hating others. No follower of Jesus can incite racial hatred, threaten nuclear war, and spread lies and fear in the way this administration has done. We see Nazis parading through American streets. White nationalists dictate policy in the White House. GOP leadership in Congress either does not have the courage to confront this evil, or is actively encouraging a politics of hate, violence, and fear.

How are we to respond? As friends and followers of Jesus, how will we challenge white supremacy? 

There’s not one answer for each of us. Our family is expecting a newborn baby any day now, so I probably won’t be joining protesters in the streets anytime soon. Others of us are already being called to be physically present in the streets where many of these struggles are taking place. There is both room and necessity for a diversity of gifts, actions, and tactics as we seek to be faithful in these times of hatred and fear.

In this diversity, though, there is an unmistakable unity. While we all have particular parts to play, the character of Jesus does not change. He sends us into the world according to the spirit of love, not according to the fearful spirit of the world. Each one of us has different roles to perform, but all of us are called to walk, and speak, and act in the spirit of Jesus.

What are the marks of a Christ-like response to evil? How can our communities identify the way of Jesus, and encourage one another to walk in it?

The way of Jesus is always marked by love. Love for neighbor. Love for enemies. Love in the face of violence and persecution. The love of Jesus isn’t intimidated or overcome by fear. It doesn’t give in to slogans or posturing. It rejoices in the truth. The love of Jesus seeks healing and reconciliation for everyone, even the people who nail him to the cross.

Many of us – myself included – are tempted by the myth of redemptive violence. The idea that we can destroy evil by attacking the evildoers is a powerful one. Especially for men in our society, there is an expectation that we prove our strength and care for others though our willingness to inflict violence on people who threaten our loved ones.

Jesus was the strongest man the world has ever known. His life, death, and resurrection repudiate the false narrative of redemptive violence. Through his courage, God has shown us that true love is cruciform. His love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

So must we. If you and I wish to follow in the way of Jesus, we must rid ourselves of the illusion that our violence can transform the world. We may be called to die for love, but never to kill. Jesus calls us to be light in the midst of the darkness of white supremacy and Nazi ideology. As friends of Jesus, we have an obligation to stand in solidarity with those who are being directly impacted by personal and structural racism. All followers of Christ must stand against violent ideologies and powers.

The tools of our resistance cannot be different from those that Jesus himself has given us. He has commanded us to heal the sick, raise the dead, and preach the good news of God’s kingdom to the poor. Through his faithfulness on the cross, he has shown us how far we must go to seek the healing of others, even those who despise us. Being willing to die for our friends is challenging enough; Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for our enemies, too.

No one who is paying attention can deny that we have enemies. Those who promote race hatred and fascist violence – whether in the streets or in the White House – are enemies of God and his people. Yet our response, as maddening and unnatural as it is, must be to seek healing and transformation even for those who seek to destroy us. Not because we would choose this for ourselves. Not because we are sure it will “work” as a strategy. But because Jesus himself has borne the cross of genocidal oppression. He has shown us the way from death into life, and it comes through love of enemy. 

This is a truth that most professing Christians have failed to embrace. The way of Jesus is one of good news for the poor and oppressed. Sight to the blind, liberation for the captive, resurrection from the dead. We obtain this resurrection through indiscriminate love.

What does it look like to love a Nazi who is pepper spraying you, beating you, running you over with a car? What does it mean to be the face of Jesus to a soul that is twisted by the evil of white supremacy? These are hard questions, and I don’t pretend to have easy answers.

Rather than trying to provide a pre-packaged solution, I urge all the friends of Jesus to turn ourselves over to the wisdom, compassion, and power of the Holy Spirit. She alone has the ability to transform us from frightened children, lashing out at every threat, to mature imitators of Christ’s joy, compassion, and power. We need her now more than ever.

Holy Spirit, come. Transform our hearts. Inspire our response to the evils that afflict our nation. Make our lives good news to the poor and oppressed. Teach us how to love the world so much that we are willing to lay down our lives and privilege, in imitation of our friend and savior, Jesus.

Related Posts:

How Can God Love Both Me and My Enemies?

If Humans Are Basically Good, How Did We End Up With Trump?

  • charlesburchfield

    My feeling is this is all in God’s hands. Whatever he shows me to do So be it!!! Here is a song, by James Taylor, came up for me after reading your post:
    Lo and behold
    https://youtu.be/ywbgZ0MBKvM

    There’s a well on the hill
    You just can’t kill for Jesus
    There’s a well on the hill, let it be
    Don’t build no heathen temples
    Where the Lord has done laid his hand, now
    There’s a well on the hill, let it be.

  • You have stated, “This is a truth that most professing Christians have failed to embrace. The way of Jesus is one of good news for the poor and oppressed. Sight to the blind, liberation for the captive, resurrection from the dead. We obtain this resurrection through indiscriminate love.” I tell you, “No, the way to obtain this resurrection is by hearing and following the voice of Christ.” See Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of bones and the lesson to be drawn from it described in Ezekiel chapter 37. Then read Jesus’ statements in John chapter 5 concerning “the hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the son and those who hear shall live.” Your recourse to “indiscriminate love” is yet another ploy of self effort that will not achieve the desired end of rising from our graves. The life and power to follow Jesus comes from hearing and following His voice, nowhere else. George Fox stated, “If but one man or woman were raised by his power, to stand and live in the same spirit that the prophets and apostles were in who gave forth the scriptures, that man or woman should shake all the country in their profession for ten miles round.” (Works, Vol. 1, p. 138) And Paul stated, “For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Cor. 10: 3-5) It is this power, spoken of by Fox and Paul above that will shake the foundations of all evil whether racial hatred, greed, or whatever.

    • BCZ

      Doesn’t / can’t this amount to the same thing? You know, assuming us continuing to counsel, Love. Am I missing something, or we you just being extra specific?

      • It was not my intention to be extra specific. If you start with trying to come to the resurrection Micah refers to by engaging in indiscriminate love, you can’t do it. Human effort will not accomplish the task of obtaining life–resurrection. Hearing and following the voice of Christ is the only path to life and the only path of being able to respond to evil in the love and power of God that Micah is calling for. Thanks for asking.

        • BCZ

          Hmm. Without TRYING to be obtuse, I still dont entirely get it.

          Isn’t ‘following the voice’ a human effort (obedience, even), and thus if that voice (or whatever one believes to be the ‘standing orders’ from prior voices (such as the scriptural references I presume Micah might be thinking of).

          That’s what I meant by fleshing it out. It seems like you being – not more specific – but more complete. Micah’s advice only works if… so called by the voice… right?

          Again… I really want to understand.

          • “Isn’t ‘following the voice’ a human effort (obedience even)…?” I will try to explain and make clearer what I am trying to say.

            God’s first commandment to the Israelites coming out of Egypt was: “…if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people…And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. (See Exodus 19:5-6) (Paul picked up this theme in Titus 2:11-14 and Peter wrote about it in 1 Peter 2:1-10) This preceeds the 10 commandments and all the rest of the law given to the Israelites. The word we translate as “obey” can also be translated “hear”. Both meanings are implied however we translate the word. Obedience is more than keeping the law through human effort. The book of Jeremiah speaks to this when he wrote in chapter 7, “On the day I brought your fathers out from the land of Egypt, I did not command them concerning burnt offering and sacrifice. But this one thing I commanded them, ‘hear my voice…” (See Jeremiah 7:22 for a more exact quote)

            Micah is calling for love of enemies as Jesus commanded his disciples. I have no argument with him on that point. But loving enemies is beyond human ability. You can’t begin at “love your enemies” (“indiscriminate love”) and achieve life (“resurrection”). You must begin at life before you can love enemies. “Hear my voice…” is the resurrection to life. “Hear my voice involves our full participation. But there is something else involved beyond human effort, for now the life of God informs and empowers us to fulfill all that God commands. When, in 1650, George Fox refused to accept a commission in the army, his grounds for doing so were that he lived “in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occassion of all wars.” (Works of Fox Vol. I, p. 112) There is no other way to the love Micah is writing about than coming to the virtue of the life and power of Christ, which only comes by hearing His voice.

            Lewis Benson wrote, “The greatest need of men and women in this age, or any age, is for a word which is not their own word, a word that reaches them with absolute authority in which they cannot disbelieve, and which evokes a response of humble unconditional obedience.” (The Quaker Vision, p. 14)

    • barbara.hrrsn@gmail.com

      Sadly there are those who claim to be followers of Jesus who discriminate in who they will love. Micah was reminding us that Jesus does NOT discriminate: ALL are loved. We LOVE following Jesus to FOLLOW Jesus, and it has nothing to do with “coming to resurrection”.

      • Barbara, I can’t tell if you are arguing with me or with Micah when you state that following Jesus “has nothing to do with ‘coming to resurrection’.” No one can follow Jesus without being made alive, which is the resurrection I am writing about and which Ezekiel and Jesus allude to in the passages I mention above.

        • barbara.hrrsn@gmail.com

          So long as it is not the standard definition of “pie in the sky by and by” I agree with you.

  • Hoon Seong Teo

    I’m not an American, but I can assure you that what my good Friend Alastair Mcintosh ( http://www.alastairmcintosh.com ) calls the Spirit of Violence is stalking the world. It always takes the same form as well, that of structural economic slavery, oppression of the poor, landless and marginalised, of the power-less by the powerful. Racism, fascism and white supremacy is but an expression of it. Thank you Friend for your ministry, that only through the Light that we shall overcome them.

  • Paul J Ricketts

    Some very good points Micah.So much of Christianity( Quakerism in particular) has been whitewash(no pun intended) by colonialism and white supremacy. Somewhere along the way, Christianity and Quakerism gave way to Christendom and Quakerdom.That being said, Christianity is part of our heritage and I am not willing to relinquish it to the those who would use it as a bludgeon. But on the other side of the coin I cringe at words and phases like ”crucified Jewish Messiah.’ Yes, Jesus was anointed with the presence of God within. He pointed to a tradition and an authority much older than himself, and it is to that tradition of justice he proclaimed that we are all anointed.We are all messiahs anointed ”to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free”

    This misunderstanding of Judaism is common among Christians, because many Christians see Judaism through the lens of Christian scriptures,creeds and rituals, not as Jews define their own religion. Unconscious or conscious attitudes and beliefs of both white supremacy and christian hegemony pushes out all other
    experiences. Including but not limited to non Christians,Women,GLBT
    Folks and People of Color.Our lives and experiences of God’s presence
    within become invisible. Black Lives Matter is a deeply spiritual message.

    I too pray with you that God would transform our hearts. Inspire our response to the evils that afflict our nation. Make our lives good news to the poor and oppressed. Teach us how to love the world so much that we are willing to lay down our lives and privilege.