Are we getting too spiritual to deal with evil?
I attended a wonderful Bible study this evening where the leader was teaching from the Book of Daniel. The teacher is a very gifted individual and shows great respect for the Word of God.
The focus of the evening was on the fall of Babylon when the Medes and Persians dug their way into the city and took it by surprise (Daniel 5). However, the discussion turned towards the meaning of the word “enemy” and how Christians are to relate to our enemies. The leader quickly noted that Christians are called to “love and pray for their enemies.”
The response of other attendees was that believers are called to concentrate on changing themselves first and foremost. So when it comes to dealing with other enemy nations, believers should be more focused on our walk with God. Other people questioned the validity of Christians getting too involved in politics because we are supposed to bring about change on an individual level not through political channels.
I had to speak up. I asked, “If we only focus on ourselves as individuals, how do we relate to our enemies that want to terrorize us and destroy our country? Are we only supposed to have a personal Jesus and not worry about the bigger picture of the world? What about our military? They are a united fighting force whose purpose is to protect and defend our country. We can’t just stay on an individual level and only think about ourselves. It’s too selfish. God didn’t save me just so I can have my needs met and tell other people about Jesus once in a while. There’s a larger picture here that we cannot ignore.”
I thought I was back in the ’60s when the hippie movement was espousing the idea that “there’s peace if you want it.” Sure, if you live in your own make-believe, self focused world and never open up a newspaper, you can have a false sense of serenity. Back then I would challenge people, “Don’t you care that real people are dying in another country thousands of miles from you? Is life only about you experiencing peace or is it about you caring about other people?” I guess I was a radical from a different perspective.
Then in the study tonight someone noted that our real enemy is Satan and that we can’t be angry at Islamic terrorists because Satan is empowering them. We should be mad at Satan. I thought to myself, “If that is true, and the whole world is spiritual and that means I can punch someone in the nose and they can’t hit me back because it’s Satan who is empowering me. They really need to fight against Satan; not me. So I can beat on someone all I want and the other person should not defend themselves. After all, the real enemy is spiritual not physical.”
Somewhere in this kind of thinking, there’s something amiss. If you read the life of King David, he was always involved in flesh and blood battles. He was a man of bloodshed. He killed people with real swords He didn’t spiritualize the physical reality of His enemies. Satan filled the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus, but Judas was compliant with Satan in his decision. Should Jesus have taken him aside and excused him, “Don’t worry Judas. It was really Satan who betrayed me. It wasn’t you.” In actuality, Judas experienced the pain of betraying the Lord and committed suicide by hanging himself.
The idea of loving your enemy, according to the Christian popular interpretation, can be taken way too far. We are to pray for our enemies and love them enough to ask for God to save them. However, we cannot ignore their complicity with evil. Terrorists are evil people bent on the destruction of others, and they will use children, women and mentally handicapped ot carry out their suicide bombings. Can you love them? Can I love the Islamic mullahs who call for the destruction of America and Israel every day in their sermons?
Rather something deep inside of me tells me that King David understood that some people have turned themselves over to evil and cannot be loved back to becoming peaceful people. Can you say you love Hitler, Stalin or Chairman Mao, political leaders who murdered millions of human beings? If I am honest with myself, I have to say I do not love these brutal, evil men. If I am candid, I have to admit I do not love Islamic terrorists nor men in Islamic countries that murder women for flimsy reasons.
When God unleashes the seven seal judgments, the seven bowl judgments and the seven trumpet judgments during the tribulation period, is He showing them love? Even Jesus told His followers to wipe the dust off their feet when they entered a village where they were not welcomed. He said not to cast our pearls before swine.
I don’t have the last word on this subject. Yet I know we can go too far and over-spiritualize how we view the reality of evil. I don’t want to observe evil taking place and do nothing because I am called to “love my enemy.” If a person attempts to hurt someone I love, I will do everything in my power to stop them even if I must take their life. I believe that is the godly response to evil. To be passive towards evil is evil itself. If love for others causes us to take an indifferent position towards evil deeds, then our “love for our enemies” has become an evil behavior.
Tell me what you think on this subject. Do you struggle with these issues? How have you resolved the conflict I have raised. Perhaps you see no conflict.