As I write this article it has been a couple of hours since I first heard the news that three Columbus, Indiana church buildings were spray painted in graffiti with supposed terrorist threats. At this point, no one knows who did it. But to be honest, for the points I am going to make in this article, it really doesn’t matter who did it. Whether they are authentic terrorist threats made by radicals or just the tasteless humor made by some locals, the response of the Christian, specifically, and the Church, generally, ought to remain consistent regardless.
But even in the few hours since the news broke, the positions of Christians with whom I have spoken have been anything but consistent. And that is precisely why an incident like this is so essential for Christians in our community and in our country- because whether it is a genuine threat or not, the way we respond as followers of Christ is more important than anything else in this world.
I submit to you that there is only one way that Jesus responded to both his friends and enemies… it was consistently in love. I also submit to you that there is only one way Jesus wants his followers to respond to their friends and enemies… it too is in love. And to that end, as long as we bear the name of Christ, we will not cower in the defensive stance of fear, rather we will stand boldly in the offensive act of revolutionary love whether the threats are with spray paint, words of insult, or at the end of a sword. Our very essence, the way we are knitted together, the well-Spring of our hearts that comes from the very Spirit of God is to love. And no matter how much you hate us, we will love you that much more. That’s just the way this thing is going to go down.
It is this kind of love that looks like Jesus Christ in every situation, good and bad, even to the point that it may cost us our lives. Yes, you read that correctly, even to the point of costing your life! The way of Jesus never moves forward violently, but only through selfless, sacrificial love. It is love put on display in such a selfless and radical way that it lays itself down for friends and enemies alike.
I was at a business meeting a few years ago in Chicago. One evening I went to a Mexican restaurant with some of my business colleagues. After a really good dinner and conversation we began our trek back to the hotel. My three colleagues were in deep conversation about guns and firing ranges. Since I didn’t have much to offer to the conversation I spaced out and started thinking about other things. That was until one of the men started talking about how he carries a concealed weapon to church service each week. He went on to say that his church recently implemented security measures for their church services. At any one time there are at least three people…with guns…at their church service! I was astonished. Maybe external threats have you considering the same thing for your church? Maybe the fear of violence has you and your congregation on the edge? Maybe you are terrified that someone may come in during your worship service and hold you hostage? But can you imagine the early Church, during a time in which they suffered the greatest violence, abandoning the way of Christ by picking up arms for fear of their lives at their church service! Can you imagine Jesus pulling out his piece and blasting the Roman soldiers when they arrested and began to beat him? No, of course not. The reason you can’t imagine it is because Jesus and his early followers would never had responded to violence with more violence. And neither should we as his followers. The entire Jesus movement and ministry was predicated upon turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, blessing and not cursing, loving your enemies, not repaying evil with evil, and non-resistance to evil. Responding in anything less than love contradicts and compromises the ministry of Jesus. And the very reason why we can demonstrate the self-sacrificial love of Christ to the world rather than by fighting back is because we are people who do not fear death!That is why we will love you despite your hate. Our singular hope is in the future resurrection. And the cross Christ would have us bear presently for each person in the world is love. A love that will lay itself down for both friend and enemy.
To that end, we each should live such uncompromising lives in the Kingdom of God that not even the threat of death itself will shake us. Our love will always, always, always prevail, even and most especially when it is face to face with death itself. It is this kind of love that exposes evil and hatred for what it is. It is the kind of love that is on display as a testimony for the world to see in all of it’s beauty. Love always wins. Love is always victorious. Love never fails. Preach it!
I implore my brothers and sisters in Columbus, in all the surrounding areas and throughout Indiana, and all across our nation who follow the humble, loving, self-sacrificial way of Jesus Christ to stand united in the Holy Spirit and in prayer and to go on the offensive with a radical, revolutionary love for the sake of the world.