Thursday, March 22, 2012

Loving Our Enemies

In God's great providence, He saw fit to give me one of those minds that has a hard time 'stopping'.  Hours after reading a book, my mind is often found digesting and analyzing and contrasting and comparing and dissecting.  Needless to say, more often than not, sleep can become more of a chore than anything.  One of the ways I have learned to combat this 'gift' is to read "non-theological" books (especially biographies) at night time as I'm 'settling down' to go to bed, as doing so often has the effect of putting my brain into more of a screensaver mode.

Last night, I began reading A Heart for Freedom, the story of Chai Ling and her courageous determination to seek the freedom of her fellow countrymen (and women) in China.  Though best known for her leading role in one of the greatest uprisings in world history (Tiananmen Square), what she is not known is for the amazing journey that God had predetermined for her before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-14).

But before she gets to her freedom in Christ, she recounts for us in the beginning of the book the slavery associated with her upbringing in Communist (read: Atheist) China, along with the massive effects and implications that this had upon her life.  In these introductory chapters, she paints the landscape of her upbringing in a small town in China, highlighting especially the pain of growing up without her parents, who were somewhat renown doctors and loyalists to the People's Liberation Army (PLA). So loyal were they to this 'cause', that they were never home for their children; often they were away from home for up to a year at a time.  Though well fed physically, they were starving spiritually.

By the time she gets to the sixth chapter, which chronicles her University life in Beijing, we begin to see the ramifications of a godless [read: God-hating] upbringing.  For example: having never had a godly male figure in the home - she literally was raised by her grandmother, and then by the age of ten, was raising the rest of her family - she never was taught what true love from a man looked like.  And so we should not be surprised when she recounts how in her time at University she began dating a guy whom she didn't love.  The reason she dated him: he would be a stable husband, much the way her dad was to her mother.

Then, one day, before Chai Ling knew what had been happening, one thing led to another, and, while visiting her parents during a University break, was found to be with child (Chai had no idea, though her mom of course did).  Being brought up in a culture that is completely foreign to us, namely a culture of respect and shame, Chai Ling's father was furious, as the very mention of this would destroy the generations of hard work he and his ancestors had exerted to build the family a respectable name in the their town (not to mention the Army they so loyally served).  Without even discussing the options, her father dragged her to an abortion clinic two hours away (no one would know them in the remote village they went to), where an abortion was administered without any questions whatsoever (again, we need to remember that at that time, China was under the one-child policy).

The details were gory.  As wicked and gruesome as abortion is in "modern and sanitized" America, how this abortion was administered was far more disturbing.  Having the joy of being blessed with children, as well as the pain of losing two via miscarriage and stillbirth, I confess reading this was quite difficult and emotional for me.

And yet, as much as I was grieving over the murder of her first child, I actually was grieving over Chai Ling as well.  In a very real biblical sense, she knew better, namely that murder is wrong (Romans 1:18ff.; 2:12-16).  And yet in another real sense, she was the victim of ignorance and a Satanic government system.  She was the victim of trying to find love in a finite man, because she had never truly heard of the love of God for the world in Jesus Christ.  She was, as Paul says, an ignorant Gentile having no hope and without God in this world (Eph. 4:17-18; 2:11-12).

To console herself from the emotional, physical, and spiritual pain of abortion, she threw herself even more into her studies, which of course as an idol could never deliver her.  Before she knew it, she was pregnant again, and this time concealed her going to the abortion clinic for fear of her dad's wrath.

By the end of the book (I don't know why I read the endings so often), she has become a Christian and is fighting for more than mere political freedom in her country; she is fighting for the freedom that only comes in a personal relationship in the God-man Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:1).

The moral of the story: we don't know the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Rom. 11:33).  So often, in our rage against injustice we forget that sinners sin by nature.  We really shouldn't be all that surprised.  The reason the world is broken is because it is desperately in need of the saving gospel of Jesus.  Like Chai Ling, the world will continually seek solace & comfort from the "course of this world", which only brings more bondage & slavery to the god of this world (cf. Eph. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 4:4).

Last night at prayer meeting, we grieved over another instance of injustice in the Federal court system.  Basically, a hockey coach, guilty of numerous accounts of sexual abuse of boys he had been coaching, was given a slap on the wrist (2 years in prison).  But what was sweet was that we not only prayed for justice to be meted out by God; we also, and especially, asked that this man would be regenerated and saved by Jesus Christ.  Vengeance is not ours to repay.  God alone holds that prerogative (Rom. 12:19-21; Heb. 10:30).

How are we to respond to sinners in a fallen world?  Even sinners who kill babies?  Sinners who are trying to change the laws in our education system?  Sinners who gossip about us, lie about us, hurt us, use us, abuse us?

Rather than hating our enemies, Jesus explains how His kingdom works: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, revealing that you are children of your Father in heaven" (my translation of Matt. 5:45a).  Why?  "Because," Jesus continues, the Father acts in the same way towards those who hate Him (5:45b).

Paul says that instead of acting in wrath & rage against those who oppose the Kingdom, we are to feed our enemies when they are hungry, and to give them something to drink when they are thirsty, "for by so doing you will heap coals upon their head" (Rom. 12:20).  Paul closes the chapter by encouraging the gospel-remembering believers (12:1-2) "not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good" (12:21).

In 1 Cor. 6, after listing & categorizing a motley crew of Hell-deserving sinners, Paul says, "And such were some of you."  I wonder what Chai Ling's reaction was when she read the glorious verse for the first time.  I wonder if she wept for the praise of the mercy she found in Jesus when she read the next sentence, "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (6:11).  Brethren, because of grace, mercy triumphs over judgement! (James 2:13)

May God give us the grace to love our enemies, and pray that God would save them.  They are already condemned.  Jesus came not into the world to condemn the world (because it already is), but that through Him the world might be saved (John 3:17).  May the gospel of hope for the chiefest of sinners be the theme of our song, for truly, beloved, such were some [read: "all"] of us!

In Christ, and for the glory of His name to the ends of the earth, China included,
Pastor Ryan

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