I have a confession, my wife and I are Netflix junkies. Oh, yeah! We Neflix! It’s an epidemic. It’s a word. One of the shows we have recently gotten hooked on is Once Upon A Time. One of the episodes Snow and her daughter, Emma, are discussing the choice of letting the Evil Queen die while saving the rest of the town or attempting to save the Evil Queen (who has repeatedly and ruthlessly committed murder, and manipulated, lied to, and tortured everyone without exception) along with the town while running the high risk of failing and everyone dying. Emma reminded Snow of how Snow had killed Korah (The mother of the Evil Queen) in order to save those she loved. Snow’s repent-full and loving reply was that at that time she had done wrong, for she had chosen to do what was easy, not what was right. She admitted that there were other paths to take but she chose to take the easy path and take a life in order to spare a life(s) instead of one of the more difficult paths that would spare the life of her enemy and the ones she loved. In this scene, Snow displayed a pure heart that was filled with nothing but love. And my mind immediately ran to the teaching of Jesus we have recorded in Matthew 5:43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matt 5:43-48
This passage contains what I have found so far to be one of the most difficult teachings of Jesus in all of Scripture – especially for 2nd Amendment, red blooded, American Christians. We sit around and talk about how we want to follow the teachings of Jesus. Politically conservative Christians will even speak of how Scripture soundly condemns “gay marriage”, they will raise their voice against abortion declaring the clear, Scriptural teaching of the sanctity of human life, and they will raise the call to not be conformed to the world’s standards as a call to stand against democratic liberals. Yet, while declaring the supremacy of Scripture and it’s rightful place as the determiner of how America should be governed they cease to follow Jesus when it comes to siding with Him over the NRA.
As Americans, we have “our rights” hammered into our minds. And as one who was raised a politically conservative American, I can attest to having the right granted by the 2nd Amendment driven soundly in my brain, not just by hanging out with good ol’ country boys, but also from the pulpit. The right to bear arms might as well be the 11th Commandment. This “American Christianity” ignores Matthew 5:43-48 in preference of the 2nd amendment; and while it preaches of the eternal worth of one soul who is worth saving the eternal flames of hell, it also teaches one to choose to end that poor soul’s life if it means sparing one’s own. THIS is where Christianity meets the road for the American who would follow The Messiah. THIS is where we must choose the path that is difficult and risky, as that is not only what Jesus calls us to do, but what He modeled for us.
Love doesn’t say, “If it comes down to my life or your’s, mine is of more value!” Love doesn’t say, “I will look out for your best interest until you threaten, or I feel you are a threat to, mine.” The self-sacrificial, placing others before yourself love of Jesus doesn’t sit well with the American, “I know my rights” mindset. I know conservative Christians who will declare that they are separate from the world all day long because they don’t listen to music with heavy drums, think tattoos are evil, abstain from beer, and practice “three-to-thrive” (attending 3 church services a week); but when it comes to living this actual teaching of Jesus, they side with the world in raising the battle cry of using lethal force to defend what is theirs.
In every discussion I have with believers on this issue, they invariably put forth a hypothetical situation that is “difficult” in where they think taking the life of a person is justified. They denounce all other avenues in their hypothetical situation as any path but ending the life of another would not guarantee the end of the precarious situation. It is at this point for them that pragmatism becomes paramount to Jesus. (I know, because I was one of those “Christians”; and attest this dying to self doesn’t come easy.)
In order to appease our conscience we have chosen to construct an American Jesus instead of the real, loving, meek, gracious, bloodied, beaten, and betrayed Jesus. We have sided with the world in finding the heart of God, Jesus, repulsively offensive and have rejected Him while convincing ourselves we love Him by accepting a substitute.
Christian, we have chosen the path that is easy instead of the one that is intensely risky. We have chosen the way of the world instead of the way of The Messiah. We have chosen to love, just so long as it doesn’t cost us anything, which is really choosing to hate.
Love is hard.