Loving Our Enemies Does Not Excuse Us from Loving Our Friends

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Matthew 23:23

There is no question that Jesus has commanded his Church to love her enemies. So it is great that so many Christians try to find more and more ways of doing so. What isn’t so great–and is in fact quite shameful–is that Christians are increasingly failing to love their friends, family, nation, and one another.

For example, right now, the big push from the World is for the praise of various forms of sexual confusion and depravity. There is a great pretense of oppression against the LGBTetc crowd, despite dozens of major companies falling all over themselves to affirm them, the systematic suppression of all criticism of them in our schools and universities, and the universal acclamation they receive from Hollywood in pretty much every film and television show they make. Despite how silly these claims of oppression are in 2019, most Christians nevertheless seem to believe them and try to find ways to compensate. Even among Christians who actually believe Jesus’ teachings on sexuality, the goal is often to relieve the supposed oppression and to be more and more welcoming.

In itself, reaching out is by no means a bad thing–at least inasmuch as our goal is to actually be loving rather than to simply be seen as loving. After all, we should be no less welcoming towards sinners than Christ was. But there is an ugly flip-side to the way this goal is now carried out. The Bible still teaches what it teaches. It condemns sodomy in no uncertain terms. It consistently affirms gender integrity. The Church likewise still has the God-given responsibility to teach what the Bible teaches. And, of course, the world will still react to the Church doing what it’s supposed to be doing precisely the way Jesus promised it would–with hatred and persecution.

In the face of this, some Christians are so devoted to being welcoming above all else that they are tempted to see the World’s promised reaction as evidence of our failure rather than of our faithfulness. It is here that many Christians actually begin to devour their brothers and sisters. They might not go so far as to deny what the Bible teaches (though many do), but they’ll always find ways to attack those who repeat it. They start playing tone police–finding insensitivity everywhere so that no preaching of God’s Word proves tepid enough to be inoffensive–and condemn any Christian who speaks out as unloving. When their brothers and sisters come under fire, they will distance themselves instead of standing with them–making sure the World knows that they’re not one of those Christians. Some will even go so far as to obsequiously apologize for God’s Word and thereby impugn the faithful for the crime of believing it. When those who speak out are fired from their jobs, disowned by their families, and taken to court, they remain silent except to pour salt on their wounds by claiming that it never would have happened if they had been sufficiently sensitive and loving in the first place. In so doing, we feed one another to the Spirit of the Age. We try so hard to love our enemies that we fail to love one another as Christ commanded us.

A similar pattern can be seen among Christians when it comes to our responsibilities in the left-hand kingdom–caring for our families, neighbors, and countrymen according to our vocations. The current big push from the World here is to embrace unfettered immigration. And Christians, of course, know that God has called us to be hospitable and to love the foreigner among us. Unfortunately, too many Christians syncretistically mire God’s instructions with the World’s imperative and begin to denounce any and all attempts to maintain our nation’s borders as unloving.

I’ve written and spoken about this at length, so here, I’ll be quick and to the point: Taking this approach towards mass migration is hatred toward your own nation. Deliberately dissolving your borders is effectively burning down your own heritage and people–the very neighbors whom God has placed into your care–on behalf of foreigners. Historically speaking, in virtually every case, mass migration has eventually resulted in mass bloodshed. Sometimes it’s the blood of the migrants, sometimes of the natives, and often both. Accordingly, if we are to love both our countrymen and foreigners–as God has commanded us–then the loving solution is to deliberately limit migration and thereby prevent that bloodshed. Far from a border wall being a symbol of oppression, good fences actually make good neighbors. When Christians fail to realize this grim reality of life in a fallen world, we end up trying so hard to love the alien among us that we fail to love our families, neighbors, and countrymen.

The takeaways for Christians here is that loving your enemies was never a substitute for loving your friends and that loving the foreigner was never a substitute for loving your neighbors. Take a closer look at the Sermon on the Mount quoted above. Look at the reason Jesus gives for saying that loving those who love you and greeting your brothers isn’t a credit to us. It’s no credit because even the gentiles and tax collectors do those things. In other words, everybody–even the rawest pagan–knows that he’s supposed to take care of his family, his tribe, and the fellow-worshipers of his gods. Everybody knows this… except for contemporary Christians. Oh, we’re often quite pious about loving our enemies, but when it comes to the absolute bare minimum of love that even unbelievers have figured out through natural law… well, there we stumble; and it’s absolutely shameful. We would do well to let Christ examine us:

Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, “Honor your father and your mother,” and “Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.” But you say, “If anyone tells his father or his mother, ‘What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Matthew 15:3b-9

Loving our enemies sets Christians apart, but it is not the beginning of our love.  Do we really think loving our enemies is to our credit when we fail to love even our brothers? Do we really think that maintaining the World’s latest traditions is an excuse for failing our most basic God-given responsibilities? Of course we should love our enemies! But this we ought to have done without neglecting the other.

About Matt

Software engineer by trade; lay theologian by nature; Lutheran by grace.
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