Loving your enemies


Let me preface everything I’m about to say with this disclaimer:

I am no fan of the emergent movement. In fact, most people within the movement would classify me as extremely hostile to it. I find some parts weird, some parts refreshing, and some parts heretical. Unfortunately, I find some of the teachings to be apostasy (though this is more on an individual basis and not overall). I am hostile to the theology, I do find much of what they’re exploring/teaching to be a dangerous rehashing of old heresies, and I do not like how flippant they tend to be toward Church history.

With that said, I attempt to argue against the theology and not against the person. I fail at this, but I do attempt it. In most cases, just because I disagree with them – even if that disagreement is huge – I always try to divorce the person from the idea. This means:

1) That I try to be friendly

2) If possible, I try to be their friend

3) Before criticizing what they’re saying, I try to understand what they mean and why they’re saying it (from the person if possible)

Sometimes, I fail at all three, sometimes I succeed at all three. I’m a sinner, so it’s hit and miss. But I only know when I’m wrong because I also know how I should act and by knowing how I should act, I know how others should act.

The reason I bring all of this up is recently, Michael Morrell (helps with “The Ooze” website, an emergent website) opened up with some problems he’s been having concerning extreme anxiety. In the post, he confessed that for whatever reason, he’s slowly been gaining a fear of travel, so much so that he can’t drive out of his local area or even ride with other people. I’d encourage you to go read the article because it’s very refreshing to see someone so open about their struggles.

Unfortunately, some people with a Reformed bent who are also anti-Emergent and pride themselves as heresy hunters read the post and decided it would be a perfect opportunity to make fun of Mike. They mock Mike attempting to find alternative cures to his problem to simply having the problem, viewing it as a weakness within Mike that they can exploit.

I’m all for arguing against false teachings or false spirituality, but what these men at Remonstrans are doing goes too far and is unbecoming of a Christian. Under the Christian worldview we wage war against ideals and not people, though sometimes we must wage it against the people as well in order to save those who they lead astray. But even when we go against the person, we show how what the person is saying is wrong; we don’t attack the personal problems of the person, especially if the person can’t help it. What Mike is going through is not something that is under his control; he deserves our prayers, our empathy, and our support, not our vitriol and insults.

Jesus commanded us in Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. But what does it mean to love our enemies? We look to the two greatest commandments, to love God with our entire being and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I know that for me if something happened to me beyond my control, anyone mocking me for it would simply add insult to injury, thus I see no reason to mock others when it happens to them. In loving God we love others. This does not mean that we go, “Oh, well that’s fine if you believe that.” Sometimes love is tough and requires us to tell people bluntly that they’re wrong; but insulting a person over psychological issues that the person cannot control has nothing to do with arguing on the person’s beliefs.

Perhaps someone would quickly bring up that Jesus often reserved harsh words for the Pharisees, therefore the people at Remonstrans are justified in how they wrote about Mike. But the automatic problem in such an argument is that it’s arrogant enough to presume that the condemner is just like Christ and in no way a Pharisee. Even if it is true that Remonstrans somehow represents Christ perfectly on earth and Mike is a hard-hearted Pharisee, when did Jesus ever attack and mock and condemn the Pharisees for things beyond their control? The fact is that He never once attacked them for their physical infirmities, but rather went after them for their beliefs and actions.

I don’t know Mike. In fact, I only know about this because he randomly added me as a Facebook friend a while back. I don’t know what all he believes therefore I won’t make any comments on his belief; I know he’s “Emergent” and from what I’ve read, I disagree with some of his views (but agree with others – it would be a mistake to disagree with anyone 100%, everyone believes some truth). But at the end of the day, he’s still made in the image of God. He’s still a person. He still has a wife. He still has a family. He still has frailties. Thus, we share much in common. Am I loving if I mock him for his sickness? Am I loving if I mock him for his struggles?

The fact is, no matter how strongly I disagree with Mike on matters of theology, philosophy, politics, or life, should I come into a position where I can help him, I should. If I know of his struggle, but cannot help him, then I should at least have compassion upon him. In this compassion, I should not mock him, I should not make fun of him, and I should pray for him and hope that he finds healing. That is the only thing a Christian can do. That those at Remonstrans would do otherwise is the antithesis of orthodox Christianity.

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2 thoughts on “Loving your enemies

  1. I’m going to turn a well-worn aphorism on its head: With ‘enemies’ like you, who needs friends? 🙂 I appreciate your words here, and I feel absolutely the same way. It’s one thing to oppose (even strongly) someone else’s ideology; it’s another thing entirely to gloat at your “foe”‘s misery, and draw too-hasty causal relationships between the two.

    If you *do* end up moving to Raleigh, let’s have a drink…or an herbal tea.

  2. Joel, an excellent post. Interesting that on Friday I wrote an article entitled “Love Your Enemies.”

    Incidentally, last January I blogged in response to Mike’s article “Is God ‘A Recovering Practitioner of Violence’?” The discussion became … lengthy 😉 but by God’s grace remained civil. At any rate, I posted a comment to Mike’s latest article and saw your link, which is how I found your blog. May God use you in a powerful way.

    Becky

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