We are continuing the Q&A between myself and prolific theologian, author, professor and blogger, Scot McKnight, about his new book, One.Life. You can check out a number of his award winning books and blog here.
Andrew’s Question: On page 93 you said “Enemies can be loved easier than conquered.” Wow! So profound and so relevant to our culture wars today that exist only to conquer. What are your thoughts about Jesus’ message of loving your enemies in relation to the acceptable medium of engagement in our society to conquer, dominate and win? It seems to me that many feel that reconciliation, or peace, cannot happen unless there is a winner and a loser.
Scot’s Response: When there is a winner and a loser, there is no winner but two losers. Andrew, I’m a pacifist and an Anabaptist and that means I’m grieved by war – even if I read and comment on political postures we take in this world. But deep inside I am convinced that our interventions with war do not and cannot bring genuine peace – they may stop war but they only drive the desire for revenge and war to deeper places. Over time they will come back in harsher forms, and that is what we are seeing played out in the international state right now. And I’m not blaming just the USA; the world’s power brokers are to blame. It’s a power game.
Followers of Jesus are called to a different ethic. He calls us – in everything – to love God and to love our enemies, what I call the Jesus Creed. That means also in political rhetoric (we are to be “with” as a “for” even in political discourse) and in international relations. To be sure, maybe we are so far from the table that we can’t engage the powers. But we can pray and we can protest and we can make the way of Jesus known, and urge our leaders to sit at the table until a genuine and peaceful form of resistance can work its way into how the nations relate.
Perhaps you wonder why I’m talking about “war.” The cultural wars are one degree lower than the international wars we are experiencing. For us to sort out as Christians how to relate to the political and cultural wars today we have to be willing to acknowledge that sometimes the “other” is our enemy. That’s flat-out wrong for a follower of Jesus. I don’t care if you don’t like Sarah Palin or Barack Obama – if you are a follower of Jesus you are called to love Palin and Obama. That means being “with” them as someone who is “for” them in the way of Jesus, even if sometimes your “for” means you have to disagree. But the posture is what matters: do you love your (cultural, political) enemy? If not, it’s time to follow Jesus in a new way.