Wednesday, April 09, 2008

how do we look at others?

Yesterday in our "devotions", as we were considering "enemies" from Psalm 23, I made a rather half-baked statement to the effect that Scripture distinguishes certain ones as wicked or (I meant, special) enemies of God's people (seen in the psalms and prophets, and elsewhere). This brought about a debate, as a brother made the point that all outside of Christ are enemies of God, and therefore enemies of God's people. I then tried to get some discussion going as to how we are to look at those who are not in Jesus. Without going into the details of it, my brother and I ended up disagreeing.

Jesus teaches us to look at those not in him as valuable, in his stories or parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Enemies in Scripture are usually those who are hostile to the faith and actively oppose it. If we say that the theological truth that we are all enemies of God outside of Christ applies to Jesus' sayings in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 as to how we're to look at our enemies as in loving and praying for them, turning the other cheek, etc., then we water down Jesus' teaching.

Yes, apart from grace we are enemies of God. But in Christ and in the Cross or death of Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself, so that in a true sense, because of this, we can say, "God has nothing against you. Therefore, because of Jesus and what he has done for you, be reconciled to God."

The Pharisees made a big deal out of those who were in and out. But Jesus refused to live by their code, eating and drinking openly with the outsiders. We can't look at such as enemies, since we don't know people's hearts and what God may be doing there. And besides, we know we all stand on the same level; grace alone, that is the gift of God in Jesus, is only what brings us back to God, taking care of our sins and the fact that we are sinners, and bringing us to relationship with God and with all that this reconciliation brings.

Much to say here, and not an easy subject. What input might you like to give us on this?


preacherman said...

I try to look at people as souls. Do they need Jesus or not.
I don't judge because God tells us not to judge or the measure we judge we will be judged. But, I do think it is important to see them as souls that God loves more than anything. We need to find out do those souls have Jesus, are they believers, or not. If not share our faith with them in a graceous and loving way. Ted, great post again brother!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Critique this. Where may I be wrong? Or how could I have said it better?

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, Kinney. I'm on board with you in what you say.

L.L. Barkat said...

Interesting to consider what an enemy actually is. I guess I would start there.

preacherman said...

I think what you are saying in your psot is right on brother.
I don't know if I would change much if any thing at all. Except what I mentioned earlier.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes. Good thought and the best way to approach it, I'm sure, or at least as good a way as any.

I love the way Miroslav Volf looks at enemies, and I love the way he works through what our Christian response should be to such enemies. Challenging.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, Kinney.

L.L. Barkat said...

Ted, that's so interesting, your comment. I just stopped by to mention Volf!

Tippett says this about him, "Volf puts a finer, harder point on this: we are substantially defined not only by those we love but by who our enemies are. Our own identities are shaped by our interactions with them...We are all, whether we wish it or not, in profound relationship with our enemies...When we respond in kind to hatred and aggression, we risk becoming like our foes."

Well, there you have it.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, her program with him is quite a good one. He is a must read.

And you're a must read, as well. I'm finally getting your book along with Rachel Starr Thomson's book. I'm so slow. Our money has been tight, so it's an event when I get a book, but greatly looking forward to reading it, and promoting it, L.L.

Thanks for that great quote. I want to read again the three books by Volf that I have. Stuff in there to work on the rest of one's life.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Krista Tippett also loves Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and has been influenced by him. Another must read are his books, to grapple with.

L.L. Barkat said...

Ted, you're sweet. You know, I do this thing now where I ask my library to purchase the books I'd like to read. They are actually quite accommodating. Sometimes, like with Tippett's book, I end up paying some small fines because I hold on to the books too long. But overall, it's a big money (and space) saver. :)

Ted M. Gossard said...

You just gave me a great idea! Not only will I buy my own copy of your book. I'll ask our library system to purchase it, as well.

I'm afraid there's so many good and even great books out there I can't buy, including Krista's. I want to read hers, and need to look that up, as I'm guessing our library system has at least one copy of it.


NaNcY said...

i look at it like this.
God is Love.
God wants me to love Him and Love others with the Love that He has given to me.
i think that it is not my decision to do anything else but to give the Love of God to all as He would have me to do. i think that it can only be done in humble respect for God and with His power as we keep our eyes on Him.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Simple and profound, Nancy.

Yes, God's love knows no bounds! If it doesn't love enemies, in Jesus' words, it's not God's love.

Allan R. Bevere said...


My former teacher, Stanley Hauerwas, liked to say that Christians have no enemies, only strangers we hope to make our friends.

Thanks for the insightful post.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks. Always good to hear a quote or thought from Stanley Hauerwas, and always good to hear from you, as well!