I came across an article on a Christian Magazine site I visit that was written in 2015. The article wrestles with an incident that happened on a Christian college campus. It was after the San Bernardino shooting. The president of the university is quoted to have said these words, “If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them…” After which the student body applauded.
The article wrestles with Jesus’ words about violence (“love your enemies and do good to those that hurt you,” “blessed are the peacemakers,” “turn the other cheek,” etc.) and what the president of this university said. The author of the article acknowledges that the Bible as a whole seems to have some nuanced positions on violence and therefore the biblical argument for pacifism is not entirely clear cut. However, the author still suggests that:
“…at the absolute least, we should be able to recognize that when Jesus told His followers to turn the other cheek, they lived in the same dangerous world we live in today. They had enemies. Jesus told them to love. They were being threatened. Jesus told them to seek peace. They were being beaten. Jesus told them to keep it up… So even if the argument could be made that Jesus might have made qualifications for ‘turning the other cheek’ when it comes to self-defense, it’s difficult to imagine Him reveling in it very much… The death of anyone—even those trying to do us wrong—does not add to our joy. “
The reason I bring this up is because my heart has been consistently unsettled by the divisive issues plaguing our country right now. Specifically, the way in which a number of Christians respond to these issues. As a pastor, part of my calling is to call people to follow Jesus. Even if following him means forsaking things in this life that would get in the way of that. Yet, anytime I have wanted to raise questions about how American Christians in particular should view Muslims, violence, refugees, immigrants (illegal or otherwise), racial reconciliation, the poor, or any other hot button issue of our current time, I get a significant amount of push back. I think some people have even just labeled me as a progressive, liberal, democrat or something. Which, in some Christian circles is like a cardinal sin. I have received push back from good people who claim Christ. I have thought that maybe the way I bring stuff up is not helpful. Maybe I am just being divisive. The problem is that I just can’t shake the tension. The unsettled feeling in my spirit that something in Christ’s Bride needs to be called out. Most of my unsettled feelings revolve around a few questions:
As Christ followers, should not our allegiance to Christ force us to reinterpret how we view the world and others (and even our American identity)?
If we can’t talk about the tension of living as a Christ-follower in a broken world in the Church, then where can we talk about it? If there is not a tension at all, are you/we really taking Jesus’ words seriously enough?
Why are we so dogmatic about some Scriptures, but tag exceptions and addendums to others? Who decides there are exceptions to the Scripture’s words about violence, welcoming the stranger/foreigner/sojourner, and social justice but there are not exceptions to others?
Why are so many self-proclaimed Christians so militant and borderline hateful (particularly on social media platforms) with their passionate views about guns, immigration, Muslims, the poor, and racial justice?
Even if their political position is the most logical and it is the best possible view from a national/political standpoint, how can anyone justify speaking about other people in the ways some do? An illegal immigrant is a person that God loves. A progressive, liberal, democrat is a person that God loves. God loves Muslims. God loves the people in the LGBQT community. God loves the person that would intend harm to our “way of life.” God loves those who threaten our values. While there is no easy way to address how we should stand up for our values and beliefs without compromising the call to love, one thing is certain: we cannot dehumanize, demean, diminish, or detract from the value of other human beings. This means not sharing, posting, typing, propagating, or speaking things that reduce a person to a political issue about which we can say any hateful thing we want so long as it aligns with our position. Why? Because God loves them. And, he has called us to do the same. In fact, our calling to love people is like (equal in weightiness) to our calling to love God.
 See Matthew 22:37-40