THE SOCIETAL HEDGE OF THE CHURCH - P4
“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9).
Jesus’ injunction for us to “love our enemies” has a powerful dampening effect on society’s propensity to oscillate out of control from tribe against tribe, grudge against grudge, maliciousness to maliciousness, and violence against violence. This commandment is the wisdom of God to ensure liberty and justice for all people (good and bad) in a community, and it is an expression of God’s own character to the world, “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matt. 5:45b-46)
As a practical example of this attitude, those who had fought against Independence in the American Revolution were still granted citizenship with all its rights, including the right to speak freely and bear arms. That is a practical expression of Jesus’ commandment, applied in wisdom to moderate resentments and dampen out the harm from the war. Most nations in our past would have enslaved, punished, or wiped out their enemies. But hearts that desire reconciliation show love, even to their enemies, which engenders peace in society.
And little surprise, for we are to “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10).
The Founders understood this. John Adams had this to say: “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God...The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity...Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited...What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be!...I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.”
History has shown us that the more Biblical values are encouraged, practiced, and integrated into the cultural and practical governance of a society, the more just, open, and free a society becomes. That is the legacy of the Christian tradition in western civilization. Christians who practice their faith (and non-Christians who respect the teachings of Jesus) are the only thing keeping societies from becoming brutal in their foreign policy and cruelly dominating in their domestic policy.
Unfortunately, there are very powerful forces at work in the world today trying to raise up the ghost of paganism and drive factions and groups to demonize and dehumanize each other, resulting in justifications for the worst kinds of societal unrest and violence. We must testify against this dangerous and evil work being wrought in our neighborhoods and hold fast in the convictions of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ to even “pray for those who hate you.” Foremost, we should never cease in witnessing to His saving Gospel, which is man’s only offer of reconciliation to God - offered freely to all His vilest enemies while the time allows. And it is salvation by the Gospel that truly makes the practical expression of loving your enemies possible. Even so, Amen.