Painting: ‘My Friend‘ by Helen Thomas Robson (fineartamerica.com)
“You’ve heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you: Do not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and offer them the other one. If someone wants to sue you to take your tunic, let them have your cloak as well. And if someone forces you to go a mile with them, go with them two. Give to the one who asks, and do not turn away from the person who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. And then you will be the true children of your Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:38-45
Dear Fellow Christians,
The life of Jesus, and the life he commands us to emulate, is one of unconditional love (agapaó) toward others. It’s the same unearned love that saved us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). In its operative form it’s called grace, undeserved favor toward those who have no right to such a claim. In other words, it’s loving the way Jesus loved. We, the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), his followers, are called to be his active, physical presence in the world.
And yet the message the world seems be hearing from most who call themselves Christians is not “We love you unconditionally” but “Here’s a list of our demands!” No wonder they’ve turned away from Jesus. When did the Body of Christ become just another special interest group demanding its rights?
“But,” many cry, “our country has abandoned its biblical values. It’s turned pagan, evil—and it’s up to us to save it!”
No, it’s not.
Jesus didn’t call his followers to save the Roman Empire—a world of pagan beliefs and abominable practices (widespread slavery, child abuse, torture and murder as public entertainment) ruled over by a dictator considered a living god. Instead, Jesus called his followers to save people, individuals. But how, if not by saving their nation?
By showing them the love Jesus spoke of and embodied, by being his living presence in the world today.
Brothers and sisters, “Christendom,” the era of powerful nations loosely guided by Christian principles, has ended. We are rapidly returning to the kind of pagan society Jesus encountered 2,000 years ago, a society that doesn’t even pretend to be Christlike–because it doesn’t know who Christ is.
No wonder our culture is turning away from Jesus. They’ve never encountered him. And until we show them the real Jesus…
We’ve shown them no Jesus at all.