We end our three-week, mini-series, that began with Jesus telling us to love our enemies, with the way of courage. And this week we focus on life-or-death sorts of enemies. Are we really supposed to love them too?
During the first century, the Jewish people were threatened and on the brink of war. The burning question was, “What sort of savior do we want?” There is a story from the Gospels that usually comes up around Easter, that needs to be told now. The story involves a man called Barabbas. But this story is also a story about all of us.
You see, there are always two ways before us. And the more we feel under attack, the more tempted we are to choose a savior who promises to put an end to our enemies. Whatever voices in our head that tell us that killing is wrong are drowned out by shouts of desperation.
This is also a story that reinforces that the gentle way of Jesus is not just for bloggers who annoy us and neighbors who get on our nerves. When Jesus says to love your enemies, He means the people who have chosen the way of evil and are literally seeking to destroy you.
The cross and resurrection are about life and death. Loving our enemies in this way requires a belief in love more powerful than death. And loving in this way takes more courage than anyone I know actually has within them.
There is a quote by a man named Gilbert Keith Chesterton that comes to mind. ““The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” This is truer than we would like. While there are examples where one person has shown a love that approaches the love shown to us by God, in Jesus Christ, there aren’t many. The way of Jesus, sometimes called the way of the cross, is a way for the courageous.
Pilate asked the crowd, “Which one of these two do you want me to set free for you?” “Barabbas!” they answered.
Our culture too often thinks of courage as taking on our enemies. Standing up to others. Lately, standing up to enemies has become synonymous with name-calling. I picture two nine-year-olds on the school playground, trading childish names for one another in a verbal tic-for-tac battle.
But name-calling too often leads to violence. While we can laugh at the lunacy of it all, we also realize that these childish grownups often have access to destructive forces. What kind of savior do we want? Can we follow a savior who demands courage from us?
Jesus is arrested. But there is still a chance to save Him. What will I do? What would You do? The momentum of the crowds is against Him. Going against popular opinion is risky. And what can one person do anyway? Yet, Jesus was arrested because He dared to speak truth to power. This is the Way of Jesus. Are you ready?
Most of us are not ready. But it’s inspiring to read about people who seem to be. And it isn’t very comforting to imagine ourselves being ready. I love the stories of Peter’s enthusiasm bubbling over. But there is nothing written about Peter speaking up when the authorities offered to release Jesus. Forgetting about the irony that any human can actually save the Savior. Where was Peter’s enthusiasm then?
This is the Way of Jesus. Are you ready?
Fortunately, like the question we tackled last week about how to have more patience, there is a way to have more courage. It is the way of the cross. And it is the way of embodying God’s Spirit within us. Even as our body shakes, and our instincts tell us to put our support behind the Savior who will put a stop to our enemies, the Holy Spirit will move us forward. Forward along the way of Jesus.
On Tuesday, February 25, we are throwing a party. After all, it’s Mardi Gras. Sometimes known as Fat Tuesday. We celebrate a tradition of turning our attention to God and seeking the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Beginning the next day, we launch the Daniel Plan, version 2.0. The “new and improved” designation is a reference to the new and improved you. We are calling this version 2.0 plan, Life raft.
If you haven’t yet signed up for the Daniel Plan, be sure to do so.2 Each person living in our community who signs up receives your very own copy of The Daniel Plan Journal.3 If you are not a part of the Asbury Community, we still invite you to participate with us, but we ask that you purchase a copy on your own. These journals can be purchased on Amazon or from other vendors. You can also go to the DanielPlan.com store to buy this and other resources.
We worship each Sunday at 10:30 am. I hope to see you there. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
2 Warren, Rick, Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman. The Daniel Plan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
3 Warren, Rick, and the Daniel Plan Team. The Daniel Plan Journal – 40 Days to a Healthier Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.