Loving our enemies while advocating for the oppressed
Philippians 3:17–4:1 Talks about the “enemies of the cross” and what drives them… Yes, if you are a true follower of Jesus you will inevitably have enemies. But what does it look like to love those who scripture portrays as enemies of the cross of Christ and the flourishing eternal life God has destined for planet earth? What does it look like for God’s people to love those in the abortion industry and those apart of the whole planned parenthood debacle blowing up everywhere? What does it look like to love and mourn for the greedy who hoard resources for themselves and pursue the American dream and all its comforts above the Kingdom of God and the call to love your neighbor as yourself and care for the least of these in society as if they were Jesus Himself? What does it look like to embrace with love the aggressive LBGT movement activists who despise followers of God’s Word and what it teaches? What does it look like to forgive and love a racist or prejudice person waving their flag and cutting down our fellow image bearers with their words and weapons? How do we do that and at the same time advocate justice for the oppressed without becoming oppressors ourselves?
Jesus actually gives us the best answer to these questions, a simple solution that is often overlooked and doesn’t get a whole lot of press, or at least hasn’t in my Facebook/twitter feed…
He commands us to pray for them… Our King, if we dare call him that, gives us the primary strategy of how we are to love our enemies. We Pray.
Matthew 5:43–45 (ESV)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Luke 6:27–28 (ESV)
27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
This is the very thing God told His people through the prophet Jeremiah to do as they were forced into exile by Babylon. In fact, he has always been commanding his people to pray for their enemies as I will show in upcoming posts.
Jeremiah 29:7 says “seek the Shalom (holistic peace) of the city where I have sent you into exile, and PRAY to the LORD on its behalf, for in its Shalom you will find your Shalom.”
All throughout scripture Babylon represents the city of man that is in rebellion against the Kingdom of God. Babylon is always attacking, always seeking to lead humans into exile and slavery to their narcissistic impulses which are ever becoming a functional god who commands us. Babylon twists the truth, seeking and promoting glory in the most shameful things a human being could do. Babylon seeks to set the mind not on heavenly things, but on earthly things, and keeps humanity’s focus on this present mist-of-a-life instead of eternity. Babylon represents the enemy of the cross of Christ and everything Jesus stood for. Babylon is ever upon us, and unless we are praying for Babylon we will be consumed by Babylon.
As I do reconciliation and renewal ministry in a very marginalized and under resourced community filled with amazing human beings who have had a pretty hard life and have struggled to survive since conception, I find that unless I am praying for the enemies of the cross of Christ and everything it stands for, my heart will so quickly get bitter toward them and I myself will end up acting like an enemy of the cross by giving way to a spirit of hate and condemnation instead of love, compassion and forgiveness. When I am not praying for my enemies in a Spirit of love, my self perceived righteous indignation toward sin actually becomes (and is is rightly perceived by others) as self-righteous oppressive hypocrisy that doesn’t represent anything close to what the cross of Jesus means. When I am not praying for my enemies I also fall away from truly advocating for the oppressed, since the highest power I could possibly appeal to on their behalf is God Himself. When I fail to pray about all the injustice I see, experience, and even participate in, I ultimately fail to advocate for the oppressed in the most important way. So you see, prayer does both. True Kingdom Prayer shows love for your enemies and advocates for justice for the oppressed at the same time.
Over the next month I intend to write four prayer reflections to encourage God’s people to pray for some of the enemies of the cross of Christ that are impacting and hurting my community and its future as well as our world. I’m calling this series “Praying Shalom for Babylon” and I hope you can tune in and benefit from these and be strengthened by God’s Spirit to pray Shalom into this broken world in desperate need of redemption.
Here are the four topics.
Praying Shalom for Planned Parenthood, the abortion industry profiteers, and all those impacted.
Praying Shalom for greedy comfort seekers trampling others in their pursuit of power, wealth and security.
Praying Shalom for the LGBT movement.
Praying Shalom for the racist and prejudice who strip dignity from fellow humans with their words and weapons.
As I write these reflections I am ever aware of how hard “Praying Shalom” for our enemies is to do… in fact, it is really impossible apart from God’s Spirit of Kingdom Peace working in us through the power of the gospel. There is not a religious or moral impulse that could lead us to genuinely love our enemies and truly pray for them from our hearts in a Spirit of compassion and Christlike forgiveness and longing for reconciliation. We can not in ourselves ever manufacture such a Spirit of prayer. Apart from our union to Jesus, who never stops praying Shalom for His enemies, we all are prone to slip into hate toward others and even justify that hate with our moral convictions. We get blinded by our self-righteousness to the hate we are actually feeling and displaying, and are clueless in our “moral conquest” of the oppression we are bringing to humanity instead of Shalom.
The Gospel of grace put on display so fully at the foot of the cross gives us great hope. As we ever survey this wondrous cross, where the most powerful being in the universe lovingly laid down His life for us His enemies and prayed peace and forgiveness over us, our hearts can not help but be stirred to realize and repent of our hate toward our enemies, and begin praying for them instead of condemning them. As this happens in Christ’s Church, I believe we will see “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream (Amos 5:24),” and the Shalom of the Kingdom of God will be more fully discovered and displayed in and through us His people.