The Scriptures teach us to love our enemies. The evangelical squish interprets this to mean that we aren’t supposed to have any enemies—except for those awkward hardliners who think that we should. The alt-right reactionary rightly rejects this counterfeit of biblical love, but then goes the way of all flesh, which is that of hating and being hated (Tit. 3:3).
But the words of the Lord Jesus stand in marked contrast to both.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Matthew 5:44 (KJV)
I have touched on aspects of all this before, but there is something right at the center of it all that I believe requires further development.
An Anecdote or Three
We live in a small town, and this sometimes gives haters an opportunity to vent. I was walking with a friend one time, when a local woman bicycled by, flipping me off. Unfortunately, it was winter, and I am afraid the effect was somewhat diminished by the mitten. Another time, Nancy was driving downtown, and saw me walking, and tried to get my attention by calling out the car window—but I just soldiered on. That evening she asked me about it. Didn’t I hear her? I had heard a voice calling in the background, but had just assumed it was someone cussing me out. Best not to engage. Another time, also winter, a gentleman across the street did start yelling at me, cussing me out. No mistake about it this time. When there was a break in the action, I called out “merry Christmas!” And, before he could stop himself, he called merry Christmas back. Kind of a reflex thing.
Now this is not a trick question. What did Jesus say to do when people curse you? He said to bless them. This is one of those moments where we are tempted to think we might be wiser than Jesus, holier than Jesus, more connected with the way the world has to be than Jesus was. But there is no real getting around it. He is Lord, and we are not. He said that we are supposed to bless people who curse us.
Say someone has heaped blasphemous abuse on you, your family, your ancestors, your faith, and your skin color. What are you supposed to do about it? At the first opportunity, you are to go to the Lord and ask Him to bless that person. Bless his day, bless his family, bless his labors—Lord, please bless that person particularly. Is he trying to get you fired? Has he told HR a bunch of greasy lies about you? All the better. Lord, please bless him.
We worry that this might not be good for him. Why would God want to bless someone so deep in sin? Well, whether or not he is actually blessed is God’s department. Your department is to do what you are told. And whether or not it would be good for him to be blessed, it would certainly be good for you to give the blessing.
Yes, I know. We are to sing imprecatory psalms also . . . and we do. Our job is to obey. If there is a contradiction—there isn’t—we can trust God to sort it out. If we are Christians, our task is to do what the Scriptures say to do, the way that Scripture says to do it.
The soft evangelical assumes that if you are being cussed out in some vile fashion, then you must have done something vile to provoke it. You may have done something particularly vile, like make a joke about your wife needing to drive the baby to your work place over lunch hour so that you can help out with the chest feeding. After being barraged with nonsense for a couple of decades, the latent “way of all flesh” starts to stir. Forced to choose between being really stupid and flat out sinful, there is a deep impulse to go for sinful.
Now I happen to think that a handful of red pills can be a useful corrective. But some of the brethren, like an adventurous two-year-old, got into the medicine cabinet and emptied the whole bottle.
They have been lectured non-stop for some years now on the need for a complete absence of any kind of discrimination whatever, which translated to a demand for a face-value acceptance of all lesbians, Pacific Islanders, Vietnam-era veterans, cross-dressers, deaf alcoholics, uterus-owners, Asians, bicyclists, and body-positive three-hundred-pounders. After a time, a certain surliness began to develop among the normals.
But what such reactionaries don’t see is that their reaction is all part of the plan. Identity politics determined to divvy us all up into societal fragments grouped by arbitrary things like skin tone. What they don’t see is that when the identity game comes down hard on them, and they react the other way, they are cooperating with the plan. A bunch of guys are in the gym, choosing up sides for a pick-up game of basketball. When it first becomes apparent that the Pacific Islanders are being favored in one direction, and the reaction starts to pick only whites, it looks like a stark differentiation. But what it actually has become is an agreement to play the game like that.
Say that you got passed over for a promotion at work, and the position was given to some black quota-queen instead of you, and there is no question but that you are three times more qualified than she is for the position. Remember that one of the purposes of such policies is to inflame relations between various ethnicities, because it is very easy to focus on the color of the person who took your position, and to start in with the muttering. But who made the hire? And what ethnicities wrote the policies that dictated such a hire? It could easily be that every last person involved in the nonsense, all the way up the food chain, was whiter than Woodrow Wilson’s knees. But the decision to jam some black person in there is blamed on . . . on whom?
When the reaction begins to accept the divisions that have been assigned to them by the left, and they think to be transgressive because they are saluting the whiteness flag they have been assigned instead of spitting on it, it feels like they are “doing something.” And yes, they are doing something—they are doing exactly what George Soros wants. Same with the patriarchy flag. Same with the American flag. Same with the Gadsden flag.
But the problem is not what you are—white, male, etc. That is the part that God did. And the American flag is fine, and so is the Gadsden flag. Don’t take those down. The flag that must come down is the resentment flag. The great problem is the seething resentment over everything that is happening. Such bitterness and resentment means that the blessing of God is not resting on you. This is because the blessing of God only rests upon those who are capable of blessing their enemies.
Let me put it a bit stronger than that. A refusal to bless your enemies is evidence that you have decided to join your enemies.
You Have Heard It Said
But loving our neighbors and hating our enemies makes good sense to us. It cuts with the grain. It is a traditional value. It resonates with something deep within us, that something being the old Adam. “Ye have heard it said” sounds like wisdom passed down over generations. And it is wisdom passed down through generations, but it is earthly wisdom.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.”
Matthew 5:43 (KJV)
The pacifist notion that we are not to have any enemies is an idea that could only gain traction under certain limited conditions, those conditions being like, say, post-war America. Our fading evangelical leadership came to the fore because the conditions were just right for that kind of person—their fathers had won the war, the standard of living was high, the fundamentalists had discredited themselves by being so surly, and all the clouds were fluffy. A certain kind of preacher arose, the kind that I call the fern pacer. He had a transparent pulpit, and a fern on either end of the dais, and he would pace between them, glad that we could have this little chat. Winsomeness is the order of the day, and so it was that a dispositional liberalism conquered evangelical Christianity.
And then identity politics came in like a wrecking ball. It was accepted at first by the winsome-mongers because multiculturalism promised all the good vibes of an international food fair. We get to eat spicy things, and nod appreciatively at our own broad inclusiveness. But things got gradually and steadily uglier and uglier, and now here we all are, at daggers drawn. The weirdos are ugly and filled with self-loathing, and the normals are provoked and filled with an old-fashioned loathing. In reaction, they now say to one another, “You have heard it was said . . .”
Resentments cloud the vision. This kind of bitter hatred is a form of intellectual blindness. And however understandable such resentments are on a human level, they are an indulgence that we cannot afford. Someone has once wisely said that bitterness is like eating a box of rat poison, and then waiting for the rat to die. When I have registered this concern in the past, I have often heard people protesting that they have no animus or hatred or resentment at all. But I have been a pastor for decades now, and I have spent a lot of time with people who have been grievously sinned against, and who know the right things to say, but who struggle with resentments nonetheless.
In contrast, real Christians fight, but they fight differently. They fight effectively.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty . . .”
2 Corinthians 10:4 (KJV)
There is a better way, and we should walk in it.
“And instead of being grave and mysterious like most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders go free, and chatted and laughed. One was whistling. You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly, and didn’t give a fig for anyone who wasn’t. Shasta thought he had never seen anything so lovely in his life.”
C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy