Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19).
This verse got me thinking. When Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount and is establishing what the “New” kingdom is like he makes a very clear distinction between the way things were, and the way things are now going to be. Multiple times in the sermon he repeats the phrase; “You have heard it said…BUT I SAY…” This is how he re-defines the law of the past without abolishing it. He takes a punitive system and retools it with greater personal responsibility but also greater freedoms. He includes the past but transcends it.
In the Old Testament there are countless verses and stories of God destroying people. This means that as a modern reader of the Bible, you must make a choice.
- Either the Bible is seen as a document in which every verse is 100% inspired and perfectly true and perfectly applicable to our modern life. (Those who do this begin to develop very nuanced theologies or ideas about God and create distinct subcultures that our modern world struggles to understand)
- Or we can see the Bible as an historical narrative that encapsulates the ideas about God that were present at the time of writing. (This is where most modern people fall.)
Quick side note: I’ve never met anyone who believed every word of the Bible as true, even though many say they believe that way. Just ask such a person if they use bleach to remove mold from their bathtub or if they call the priest. If they use bleach then they are not believing the bible as perfectly true. Ask if they believe the mustard seed is actually the smallest seed.
Ok, back to God’s enemies.
When Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount and say’s: “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:43-44)
Isn’t Jesus establishing the pattern for the new Kingdom where the Spirit of Christ will reign? If so, isn’t this also to be present now and not just jettisoned to some distant and remote future? I think most people would say “yes.” But if Jesus can only do what he sees the Father doing, then his command for us to love our enemies must be something that God is doing first.
In other words, God loves his enemies. If the expectation for us is to show gestures of goodness and mercy to those who abuse us, then it must mean that God himself is also showing tremendous mercy and goodness to those who appose him. Is our experience any different than Paul’s? Isn’t it fair to assume some of us, like Paul, are “prior” to our blindness experience and some of us are “after” our experience? Is God’s love then only on Paul after and not before conversion? Think about this. The implications are profound.
Now tie that idea to heaven. Is God asking us to do something he will not do? Will God see a sinner, a person as an enemy and then punish them to eternal punishment? Or is the enemy something else? Sin perhaps. Are the sinner and the sin the same thing? Is it possible that God’s revelation through Jesus is to show just what it looks like to love an enemy? Wouldn’t this kind of love displace a fear of Hell? If so, why is this fear so prevalent in most theologies? Control perhaps?
This kind of inclusion isn’t taught enough. Instead we are given the “exclusive” picture of God giving this kind of mercy only “IF” we think a certain way, believe a certain way, or do certain things. That however is salvation by works, not grace. It’s fundamental religion, not the love of God. Jesus seems to be saying that the love of God is up to something else. It doesn’t need to be an either/or perspective. Salvation is as narrow as Jesus and as wide as the Universe. Both.