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.
Hard but good stuff to act upon! Thank you for reminding us! Shalom!
Very interesting read. I’ll add to consider reading Dale C, great People Skills book :”How to Win…”
Often, but not often enough do I use the advice in it almost daily. When writing on Facebook:: As in Excuse me I maybe wrong I’ve been before, yet please fell free to correct me,(and often someone will, lol) yet as how I see this issue and fact (and state the facts as you understand them – along with in my opinion and everyone as a right to their opinion!) This way you’re not trying to cram your opinion down their throat and who does respond kindly if someone says I could be wrong, I have been before…
And or often I’ll say I understand if I were you I’d feel the same and you’re not lying b/c if you were them. Naturally you’d feel / think they same. The idea is to try to find agreement. It’s kind of hard to argue w/ someone that says you’re right, if I were you I’d feel actually the same way…
PS As for President Trump I have OFTEN said he doesn’t have any or surely not a lot of People Skills, but so what! I didn’t vote for him 4 his People Skills – I wanted him to drain the swamp in DC!
This is very helpful advice, Mark. Yes, it’s all about getting in someone else’s shoes. You’re so right.
Therein lies the difference between Lincoln and our current-day politicians (and many of our church leaders):
Humility, wisdom, honesty.
At these prayer breakfasts, I can’t help but wonder how many of the attendees were readily willing to truly humble themselves: actually fast instead of eating, honestly seek forgiveness, strive for reconciliation, and sincerely pray on behalf of their enemies and for those with opposing views both in the same room and outside its walls.
Or are these just more photo-ops for their local media and feel-good stories for their church bulletins and constituents’ newsletters?
I would be offending many if I said that most of the clergy and politicians attending these prayer breakfast(s) are of the same character and mindset as one another… and, it’s evident who has the greater influence right now given how the current state of contempt is being proudly embraced and displayed by the American church.
Rare, it seems anymore, is the pastor, priest, or other church leader who doesn’t preach hate… but in the name of love, of course (with the nodding approval of their political bedfellows).
And more disturbingly, the flocks that mindlessly follow these shepherds (whether political or religious) happily graze away on everything that is fed to them without much thought, and bleat contentedly while they’re safe in their pens or bleat fearfully at sheep from different flocks in the open fields (not to mention the perceived wolves).
Where their leaders go, the flock generally unquestioningly follows.
Who and where are our humble, wise, and honest leaders today?
“A good leader can lead the way. However, a great leader can empower others so that they can forge a path of their own.” – Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Wise thoughts, Bob. We have to be the people we want everyone else to be.
A hearty AMEN! from a Canadian who loves the USA