I read a great book this weekend by Donald Miller called "Searching for God Knows What". It was really great, it's been on my list for a while. My wife read it last Christmas and said that it really changed her perspective in a lot of ways and has been telling me I need to read it ever since. So, I started it last week and got the chance to finish it while we were camping this weekend. I feel like the Lord has been tugging at my heart lately, trying to teach me about love. I guess that was sort of my intent behind my last post, the great neeed I've been feeling just to love people, to honor them, to value them as human beings. Anyway, one of the chapters in Donald Miller's book talked about morality, and as I read it, I felt like he was expressing in better ways than I was able many of the sentiments I've been feeling lately and a lot of what I was trying to say in my last post. So, I wanted to include an excerpt from the book because it's just too good not to share.
"I was a guest on a radio show recently that was broadcast on a secular station, one of those conservative shows that paints Democrats as terrorists. The interviewer asked what I thought about the homosexuals who were trying to take over the country. I confess I was taken aback. I hadn't realized that homosexuals were trying to take over the country. 'Which homosexuals are trying to take over the country?' I asked. 'You know, ' the interviewer began, 'the ones who want to take over Congress and the Senate.' I paused for a while. 'Well,' I said, 'I've never met those guys and I don't know who they are. The only homosexuals I've met are very kind people, some of whom have been beat up and spit on and harassed and, in fact, feel threatened by the religious right.' Think about it. If you watch CNN all day annd see extreme Muslims in the Middle East declaring war on America because they see us as immoral, and then you read the paper the next day to find the exact same words spoken by evangelical leaders against the culture here in America, you'd be pretty scared. I've never heard of a homosexual group trying to take over the world, or for that matter the House or the Senate, but I can point you to about fifty evangelical organizations who are trying to do exactly that. I don't know why. In my opinion, we should tell people about Jesus, not try to build some kind of temporary moral civilization here on earth. If you want that, move to Salt Lake City. 'And what is the name of this homosexual group that is trying to take over America?' I asked the host, somewhat angry at his ignorant misuse of war rhetoric. 'Well, I hear about them all the time,' he said, rather frustrated with me. 'If you hear about them all the time, what is the name of the organization?' 'Well, I don't know right now. But they are there.' 'Can I list for you ten or so christian organizations who are working to get more Christians in the House and the Senate?' I said to the host. 'Listen, I get your point,' he said. 'But I don't think you do. Here is my position: As a Christian, I believe Jesus wants to reach out to people who are lost and, yes, immoral--immoral just like you and I are immoral; and declaring war against them and stirring up your listeners to the point of anger and giving them the feeling that their country, their families, and their lifestyles are being threatened is only hurting what Jesus is trying to do. This isn't rocket science. If you declare war on somebody, you have to either handcuff them or kill them. That's the only way to win. But if you want them to be forgiven by Christ, if you want them to live eternally in heaven with Jesus, then you have to love them. The choice is yours and my suspicion is you will be held responsible by God, a Judge who will know your motives. So go ahead and declare war in the name of a conservative agenda, but don't do it in the name of God. That's what militant Muslims are doing in the Middle East, and we don't want that here.' Amazingly, the host kept me on and allowed me to tell as tory or two about interacting with supposed pagans in a compassionate exchange, and later even admitted that his idea that homosexuals were trying to take over the country had originated from an e-mail he had received, an e-mail he had long since thrown away but he thought perhaps had come from some kind of sexual organization. To be honest, I think most christians, and this guy was defnitely a Christian, want to love people and obey God but feel they have to wage a culture war. But this isn't the case at all. Remember, we are not elbowing for power in the lifeboat. God's kingdom isn't here on earth. And I believe you will find Jesus in the hearts of even the most miltant Christians, moving them to love people, and it is only their egos, and the voice of Satan, that cause them to demean the lost. What we must do in these instances is listen to our consciences, and allow Scripture to instruct us about morality and methodology, not just morality. Paul was deceived when he persecuted Christians, thinking he was doing it to serve God, but God went to him, blinded him, and corrected his thinking. After this, Paul loved the people he had previously hated; he began to take the message of forgiveness to Jews and to Gentiles, to male and to female, to pagans and prostitutes. At no point does he waste his time in lobbying government for a moral agenda. Nobody in Scripture who knew and followed Jesus wasted their time with any of this; they built the church, they loved people. Once Paul switched positions, many people tried to kill him for talking about Jesus, but he never lifted a fist; he never declared war. In fact, in Athens, he was so appreciated by pagans who worshipped false idols, they invited him to speak about Jesus in an open forum. In America, this no longer happens. We are in the margins of society and so we have to have our own radio stations and television stations and bookstores. Our fomulaic, propositional, lifeboat-territorial methodology has crippled the kingdom of God. We can learn a great deal from the apostles. Paul would go so far as to compliment the men of Athens, calling them "spiritual men" and quoting their poetry, then telling them the God he knew was better for them, larger, stronger and more alive than any of the stone idols they bowed down to. And many of the people in the audience followed Him and had more and more questions. This would not have happened if Paul had labeled them as pagans and attacked them. A moral message, a message of us versus them, overflowing in war rhetoric, never hindered the early message of grace, of repentace toward dead works and immorality in exchange for a love relationship with Christ. War rhetoric against people is not the methodology, not the sort of communication that came out of the mouth of Jesus or the mouths of any of His followers. In fact, even today, moralists who use war rhetoric will speak of right and wrong, and even some vague and angry god, but never Jesus. Listen closely, and I assure you, they will not talk about Jesus. In my opinion, if you hate somebody because they are different from you, you'd best get on your knees and repent until you can say you love them, until you have gotten your soul right with Christ. I can't say this clearly enough: If we are preaching morality without Christ, and using war rhetoric to communicate a battle mentality, we are fighting on Satan's side. This battle we are in is a battle against the principalities of darkness, not against people who are different from us. In war you shoot the enemy, not the hostage."
I think that last part is what gets me the most, because I feel like we've been shooting the hostage. It's almost as if because we can't see our real enemy, we have demonized what we can see so that we have a more tangible battle in which we can gauge whether or not we are winning. But this is a grievous error, because we are fighting the hostage, not the enemy. My prayer is that we can learn to love people, truly love people, to the point where we can echo the sentiments of Paul in expressing a willingness to suffer and even endure eternal torment ourselves just to see someone else experience salvation. That is true love. It is the true love exhibited to us by our Savior and it is the same love to which we are called. God help us, help me, to love this much.