Part VIII of our series on Doing Good
In our last post, we discovered how God is not threatened by his enemies. Instead, he loves them (us) by giving his son up for them. That’s a very physical kind of love.
Now compare God’s love to actor Brad Pitt’s:
He is considered to be one of the top celebrity do-gooders. He loves New Orleans and has worked hard to help people there recover from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.
Then came the BP oil spill.
It happened because of the carelessness of BP and many fishermen lost their jobs as a result. Tourism dropped. Fish and animals died. It will take years for New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico to recover.
When Brad Pitt was asked about the oil spill, he said in reference to the executives at BP:
“I was never for the death penalty before—I am willing to look at it again”
Why does Brad Pitt love the people of New Orleans but hate the executives from BP? It might simply be because the people of New Orleans are victims and the executives from BP are trouble-makers, but that oversimplifies things considerably, doesn’t it?
A survey done by the Pew Research Center and reported in Christianity Today says that evangelical Christians favor cutting…
- assistance to needy people around the world (56 percent),
- assistance for the unemployed (40 percent), and
- assistance for environmental protection (38 percent).
On the flipside, evangelicals report being in favor of spending money for
- military defense,
- terrorism defense,
- aid to veterans, and
I hope this is because evangelicals know that caring for the needy and unemployed is a task for the church and not only the government, but the survey does not say why. I hope it is not because evangelicals’ care for the needy and the unemployed is decreasing, but that may be true, too.
John Wesley said the reason why the rich do not have more compassion for the poor is that they spend little time around them and thus do not know much about them or how they live. Perhaps the same thing is even true with Brad Pitt and the executives at BP.
So maybe we hate the people we do because, unlike God, we are threatened by them. Maybe we hate them because we don’t see them very much and thus we can make assumptions about how and why they think and act the ways they do.
Brad Pitt and evangelical Christians give to those they love and those that can help them. They sometimes wish harm on their enemies. But in Luke 6:33-35, Jesus says:
“And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
Lend to your enemies without expecting anything in return??? That sounds crazy! But perhaps it is far more sensible than it first appears.
In Luke 12:34, Jesus says, “For where your wealth is stored, there also will your heart be” (WNT). When Brad Pitt gives significant money to the struggling poor of New Orleans, he has done a good deed. His heart is with the people of New Orleans.
But what if Brad Pitt took all of his money and bought stock in BP Oil—the company which is his enemy?
His personal well-being would now be completely tied up with that of his enemy. He could no longer have the convenience of being able to criticize them and wish them harm without hurting himself. If Brad Pitt invested all of his money in both his friends and his enemies, how do you think it would change his actions and his attitudes? Do you suppose he might go to BP shareholder meetings?
The Bible tells us in John 3:16 that God the Father invested all of his “wealth”—his only begotten son—in his enemies. Do you remember that verse? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…”
He gave his son as a gift to his enemies without expecting anything in return. In fact, they killed the gift. But God raised that gift, his son Jesus, from the dead. He was not afraid of what his enemies could do to him.
Are you afraid of what your enemies can do to you?
When Jesus tells us in Luke 6:35, “Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back,” he is not asking you to do something new.
Instead, he is asking you to mirror into the world—to your enemies and his—what he did, and to do so in his name. In this way, our enemies will come to see—and touch—his great love. Because the kind of love he is talking about is a long-term commitment, not a one-time act. That’s the difference between loaning money to your enemies and giving it to them.
Sometimes the best gifts we can give are the ones that tie us together with our enemies for a long period of time. That gives God time to work on their hearts…and ours.
When you loan your enemies money, you will become very prayerful for them! And this is what Jesus is advocating: Tie together your well-being with that of your enemies and his.
In this way you will never forget to passionately intercede for them and do good to them.
How else might we be able to tie ourselves together with our enemies?