Commentary by Rev. Michael VandenBerg
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. … 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16,18)
Who is your enemy? Is it the one who hurts you, disagrees with you, holds a different viewpoint from you, is of another culture, background or race?
One of the advantages and disadvantages of age is that we have the longevity to see things in a broader perspective. I grew up in the ’60s in the height of the civil rights movement and saw how enemies were often described as those of another skin color. I saw during the Vietnam War how enemies could be both the North Vietnamese and the American soldiers who were fighting them. I lived through Watergate and could see how politically we could cut one another apart based on which side of the issues we supported.
In the church, there were the music wars between the traditional and contemporary, the support of women in ministry and those opposed, pro- and anti-abortion forces, and those who saw homosexuality as a lifestyle and those who saw it as a sin.
So who is my enemy and how should I as a Christian treat them? I can tell you that our broken, sinful nature often wants us to choose sides and build ourselves up by tearing down others. We are more interested in being on the winning side than on the side of God. One thing that lends itself to this is the notion that if you are different, seem different or take a different side from me, then you are fair game for anything I can do to oppose you.
Jesus tells us that we are to love our enemies, and do good to those who persecute you. We are, as Christ followers, to be like him, loving even those who truly are our enemies, and have no excuse for making enemies out of those who simply see the world different. If they do not know God’s love then we are to not only preach it to them, but we are to demonstrate it to them in what we do.
So sinners, you are always welcome at HOPE Church. Those who disagree with me, come, let us reason together. If you feel as though the Church has shunned you, turned you away or even hated you, then let me, on their behalf, apologize. You too are God’s child and He wants you to know that He loves you.