In the first century, Jesus quite clearly told us hypocrisy is the enemy. Pride is the enemy. Our own messed up, log-blocked, vision is the enemy. Exclusion is the enemy. Not caring for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the foreigner is the enemy.
Two thousand years later, for some odd reason, we’ve decided giving black people the right to vote is the enemy (1965); removal of prayer in school is the enemy (1963); teaching evolution is the enemy; the liberal agenda is the enemy; women preaching is the enemy; legalized abortion is the enemy (1973); and horror of horrors, gay marriage is the enemy.
Why isn’t air and water pollution ever the enemy? Why isn’t skyrocketing medical costs and under- and uninsured ever the enemy? Why isn’t a crippled educational system ever the enemy? Why isn’t homelessness ever the enemy? Why isn’t a deluge of foreign children who need not to be shipped back to their country – to extreme poverty – ever the enemy? Why isn’t our own, broken foster system filled with children who desperately need to be adopted ever the enemy?
For some reason war is never the enemy. Cyclical poverty is never the enemy. A system that jails black men at shockingly disproportionate rates than whites is never the enemy. Corporate wealth and greed is never the enemy. Run-away defense spending is never the enemy…Benjamin L. Corey, Undiluted*
By his words and action, Jesus showed love, compassion and inclusion for all those on the margins of society. These were the people for whom he cared, with whom he bonded, and invited to share his meals. In an honor and shame culture, Jesus lifted those who were shamed to a place of honor at his table.
The gospel message isn’t about accusation or keeping people away from God. It isn’t about continuing to shame those who are shamed in our own cultures. The gospel message means Good News. The Good News is an invitation. It’s an invitation to uplift people to a place at Jesus’ table.
Because we have worshiped dogma and politics and denomination instead of God, we’ve kept people out of the kingdom. We’ve done the opposite of what Jesus asked us to do.
When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” Matthew 28:18-20
And what are the things Jesus commands us to do? (italic text added for emphasis)
Matthew 5:43-44 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 22:36-39 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Luke 6:27, 23 But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; If you love those who love you, do you deserve any thanks for that? Even sinners love those who love them.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:24 The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.
If we forget these core commands, we leave the heart of Jesus out of our Christian walk. We become a stumbling block to those whose splinters we persist on pointing out. We separate ourselves from the open-handed grace and love God offers us because we’re too busy shaking our fists in anger at someone else.