Who Is Our Neighbor? The Call to Love Our “Enemies”
In this time of politically charged rhetoric and rampant violence, sometimes we Christians get wrapped up in searching for an enemy. Today on The Feed, Luke Edwards, reminds us of Christ’s call to love our enemies. Doesn’t that mean re-imagining who our “enemies” and "neighbors" are? King Street Church, a community Edwards pastors in Boone, NC, is challenging the boundaries of "enemy" and "neighbor." They are actively seeking to build relationships with those people who society labels “enemy.” Read his inspiring thoughts.
By Luke Edwards
Why do American Christians love having enemies? It seems that every week we have a new enemy: Atheist professors, the LGBT community, Starbucks, refugees. It’s as if we are prowling around the headlines in search of our newest foe.
Perhaps one reason American Christians love having an enemy to fight is because we’re bored.
Perhaps one reason American Christians love having an enemy to fight is because we’re bored. Deep within the hearts of those longing to be faithful is a desire to do something of meaning for our faith. Yet many of our churches have reduced the Christian life to a few public behaviors: don’t curse, don’t drink, wait for marriage, and smile excessively. Barney the dinosaur has a fuller ethic than that.
Christians recognize that this kind of faith is not enough. God calls us to love him with everything. This suppressed passion comes out in a way as old as Cain: hate for the other. By identifying and standing up to supposed enemies, our body fills with passion, our blood boils, and we feel as if we are standing up for the God we love. If there are no obvious threats to our faith, we are forced to go out and find one. This all makes perfect sense if you do not follow Jesus.
Jesus proposes another way to stand up for God. He says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”
Seek out the ones whom society has labeled your enemy and become their friend. It is there you will see your faith come alive.
If you’re bored with moralistic therapeutic deism, try loving your enemies. Seek out the ones whom society has labeled your enemy and become their friend. It is there you will see your faith come alive. It is there you will encounter the Gospel as if for the first time.
The church I pastor, King Street Church, has centered our community on the ones the American church has labeled “enemy.” As we have formed our little network of fresh expressions of church, we’ve established relationships with our neighbors who are far outside the church, our incarcerated neighbors, released inmates, and our Muslim neighbors. It is in these relationships where the Gospel comes fully alive; the Gospel that declares that all are beloved, even the ones we despise.
I was reading the headlines of the local paper with my wife the other day. After reading an article about a particularly heinous crime I said the not so uncommon phrase, “There’s a special place in hell for that guy.” My wife replied with a smirk, “Aren’t you trying to form church with guys like that?” Dang it.
As we enter Advent, we look toward the coming kingdom of Christ—the messy kingdom where “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together.” We wait for the kingdom where the label of enemy is dissolved and all that’s left is beloved community.
We wait for the kingdom where the label of enemy is dissolved and all that’s left is beloved community.
King Street Church is a beautiful body of broken people. Some of us have committed crimes, some of us are survivors of domestic violence, some of us are barely scraping by, some of us seem to have it all, some of us are mourning, some of us are celebrating, some of us are fighting addictions, and some of us are doing fine. Yet we all come together to follow a little child into his kingdom and it’s anything but boring.