Christians Are Called to Love Our Enemies and Pray for Those Who Persecute Us
“The free world… all of Christendom… is at war with Islamic horror. Not one penny of American treasure should be granted to any nation who harbors these heathen animals. Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter. Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.” – Congressman Captain Clay Higgins (R-LA)
This post blew up the Internet a week or so ago, and normally I read things like this and just pass on, because it seems so far out that I don’t know how to properly formulate a response. This time though, it struck a deep cord with me, and I could not in good conscience let it go without writing out my thoughts.
I am a Christian, and as a Christ-follower, this post horrifies me. This is not the first time I’ve heard this rhetoric. I grew up around it, I still hear it regularly from people in my close and extended Christian social circles, and across Christendom in general. This is by no means a fringe idea. And that’s the main reason I could not let this pass and say nothing.
There is no way to call for the mass genocide of thousands or millions of people without going entirely against the core of what a Christian claims to believe. This is the antithesis of Christianity, of following Jesus. This mindset is not just about “radical Muslims,” although Clay Higgins likely thought he was sufficiently covering his butt by specifying such. In this mindset, there is no such thing as a non-radical Muslim. And even if there was, how would you know who was radical or not? How would you go about “finding out” who was who? He states we must use “every conceivable measure…to hunt them down.” So… torture? Even risking potential innocents? Unjust imprisonment? Kidnapping family members until you get a confession?
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the Lord will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.” Proverbs 24:17-18
I hear a lot of talk from Christians about love. About being in a “relationship with Jesus, not a religion.” About reaching out to a lost world. Then those same people spout this kind of rhetoric, and the hypocrisy and doublespeak is palatable. Do we really believe that we need to love our enemies? Do we really believe Jesus’ words to “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)? Because it sure doesn’t look like it.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” – Romans 12:17-19
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-44
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Do we think this is referring to people who design Starbucks cups without Christmas designs, or the government ruling that a public business owner should not discriminate? Is our view of persecution so twisted that we imagine that not being the ruling power in our nation counts as being persecuted? These words were spoken when Christians were in danger for their lives, were being imprisoned, were hunted and murdered. Yet, they were not told to strengthen their political standing, or go to war. They were called on to love. To turn the other cheek. To fight back with kindness and love and prayer.
“‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:20-21
“But I’m talking about enemies of America, my hatred is as a citizen, not a Christian.”
I’ve another bombshell for you. Nationalism has NO place in the Kingdom of God. Our kingdom and inheritance is spiritual, not of this world. We are not Americans first and Christians second. Allegiance to a nation is merely finite, and should NEVER trump our allegiance to our faith. Our faith calls us to love, regardless of political affiliations. To turn the other cheek, regardless of citizenship. We have no more right to invade other countries and mass murder millions of people than they have a right to do the same to us.
Not to mention, ISIS and any other iteration of Islamic extremism are really no worse than extremists of any flavor. They are not evil above and beyond the evilness that has been perpetrated for thousands of years in every culture. It seems many Christians in particular like to imagine that Muslims are a next level of evilness, but conveniently forget that our own nation was built on an evil not a single bit better than what “Muslim extremists” are perpetrating now. We have a long history of abusing weaker countries, murdering mass amounts of people, taking whatever we want from a weaker people, trying to take authority and control over “lesser countries,” and continually using and abusing our own citizens. Even today, there are Christian extremists and particularly white supremacists who are terrorizing, abusing, and murdering people right here in America. Where is the call to seek them out and kill them all?
Oh, right. There isn’t one.
America is not a “Christian nation,” and neither should we try to make it be one. Nowhere are we called as Christians to build a physical nation. This falls dangerously close to idolatry, idolizing our patriotism and country above the call of Jesus to disciple ALL nations. That command came with no caveat of “but not if those nations are your political enemy.” No nation is more important, holy, or blessed by God. To imply so is the very antithesis of why Jesus came.
“Look how blessed our nation is, we are so powerful! It’s surely God’s blessing that gave us this position as a world power.”
A power that came directly from the mass genocide and hundreds of years of abuse toward entire people groups? How can it be blessed by God when our country was founded on the bones of a nation it was forcefully stolen from? How can it be blessed when people are enslaved, abused, bought and sold like cattle? To say this was a blessing from God is to say the displacement and murder of Native American nations was His will. Slavery was His will. Treatment of Black people as animals and sex slaves was His will. Because that is how our nation became rich and powerful. On the backs of those without power or autonomy. On land stolen from peoples who had inhabited it for a thousand years.
Sure, we were founded with a good governmental system and on the basis of freedom (particularly religious freedom), but that was only ever meant to be freedom for White men. They never intended to free Black men. They never intended to give autonomy to women. There was no freedom for the millions of Native Americans hunted and murdered and herded into controlled camps.
The idea of any one physical nation being a chosen and blessed nation before God is completely unbiblical and bordering on blasphemous. Yes, the Hebrew nation was once the physical manifestation of God’s favor and blessing, but Jesus came to nullify physical nations and build a spiritual kingdom. The Christian nation is a spiritual one.
“My kingdom does not belong to this world. If it belonged to this world, my servants would have fought to keep me from being given over to the Jewish leaders. But my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36
“Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world.” – Ephesians 6:12
There is no love in an angry, rallying cry to hunt down people like animals and decide which ones you’re going to murder or not. There is no love in turning away hurting, terrified people escaping death in the off chance that one of them might want to hurt someone else. We’re so terrified of “Muslim terrorists,” but refuse to acknowledge the White terrorists already living in our midst.
As soon as we define people solely by an ideology, we effectively remove their humanity. They are no longer people, humans with families, friends, emotions. They are no longer people to reach out to with an arm of Christian love, but a religion to be broken. A culture to destroy.
Our war is not against Islam. Our battle is spiritual, and in the physical realm, we are called to welcome the stranger and outcast, and even if someone truly is our enemy, to show them kindness and love. There certainly are some truly evil Muslim people in the world, just as there are evil Christians, and Buddhists, and rich people, and poor people, and Americans, and Brits and Brazilians.
And we are still called to love, and to pray.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
Editor’s note: This was first published at Joanna’s Thoughts On…
Joanna J. was born and raised in Arizona, where she still lives with her husband and their baby. Joanna loves to talk, and learn, and explore worldviews and mindsets. Abuse, civil rights, and full equality between men and women in the church are some topics that are near to her heart.
Photo by tedeytan