Guest writer for the Catch today is Doug Stevens. Doug served many years as Senior Pastor of Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut Creek, California. He was Executive Director of The Renewal Project and The Leadership Connection and has most recently served as Transitional Pastor to five different churches where he specializes in congregational healing and rebuilding. His latest book, Christ Incognito: Imagining, Encountering, Embracing and Embodying His Love, came out in December. Doug lives with his wife, Nancy, in Austin Texas. Doug will also be our guest on BlogTalkRadio tonight at 4:30-5:00 pm Pacific. You can listen live at that time, and call in if you wish, or listen any time thereafter as a podcast at the same address. We will be discussing more on the topic of loving our enemies.
President Trump and House Speaker Pelosi both spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast two weeks ago, but the keynote address was delivered by Dr. Arthur Brooks, a Harvard professor and best-selling author. With all the tension in the room and conflict in the country, his bold biblical message is worth taking in.
His opening statement was: “The biggest crisis facing our nation and many other nations today … is the crisis of contempt, creating a culture of contempt, that’s tearing our societies apart.”
He focused on Matthew 5:44, where Jesus called us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Based on this text, the answer is not simply civility and tolerance, according to Brooks. That’s because “civility and tolerance are a low standard. Jesus didn’t tell us to tolerate our enemies, He commanded us and showed us how to love our enemies. To answer hatred with love.”
How in a hopelessly polarized, constantly antagonizing world are we supposed to do this? Brooks told the 3500 prayer warriors present that we must break the cycle of contempt in our reactions to those with whom we disagree. Three steps are necessary.
One: Ask God to give you the strength to do this hard thing, to go against your human nature, to follow the teaching of Jesus.
Two: Make a commitment to somebody to reject contempt, asking someone else to hold you accountable for your attitude and reactivity.
Three: Go out looking for contempt — for opportunities to reduce the distance and initiate reconciliation, running toward the darkness, bringing your light.
Brooks offered this arresting insight: “Moral courage isn’t standing up to those with whom we disagree. It’s standing up to those with whom you agree on behalf of those with whom you disagree.”
Was anybody at the Breakfast listening?
Disagreement, even vigorous disagreement, doesn’t have to descend into contempt or congeal into hatred. Speaking the truth in love, a discipline reflecting the strength of Christlike character, is the most honorable and constructive, and, ultimately, the most persuasive response.
Consider again the wise words and conciliar tone of Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address to the nation (North and South) at the close of our terrible Civil War.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves …”
Yesterday morning, at our Prayer Breakfast in Round Rock Texas, Mayor Craig Morgan was on the verge of tears when he pleaded with us not to “hate our neighbors” as so many of us are tempted to do — and now in this atmosphere are inclined to do, and are doing. That love and respect for people, if not necessarily for their opinions, are essential and must be expressed if we are going to thrive or even survive.
Do the hard thing. Do the right thing. Find a way to love your enemy. God help us.