Fear Not! Seek Peace. Love Your Enemies and Those of Different Faiths

*The following is a guest post by my friend Jacob Evers.  He holds an MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.  Check out his blog here.

In a world that seems to fear everything, and a country that seems to believe that everyone is out to get us, how do we as Christians interact in the religious milieu that surrounds us? As Anabaptists, our first goal should be to separate ourselves from the idea that we are Christian Americans, or even American Christians. We have a rich history of separation of Church and State and we should keep it that way. One of the biggest challenges facing the American Evangelical Church is separating itself from the idea that America is a Christian nation. We are Christians that happen to live in America.

The next hurdle is getting over our fear. Fear destroys, and pulls apart. Fear leads to bitterness, and anger, and then we start to stereotype. 1 John says “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Jesus similarly says “love your neighbor” and “love your enemy.” Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and any other world religion, are not out to destroy Christianity, and even if they were, are we truly following Jesus if we hate them, persecute them, or don’t do everything within our power to live at peace with them?

In a world where many are killing for what they believe, I absolutely insist that the Anabaptist way of thought that we will gladly die for our King, but never kill for him should be our motto. Are we truly following the commandment of our Lord to love our enemies when we spread rumors, or breed hate by making our brothers and sisters in Christ believe that other world religions are evil? When was the last time we visited a Mosque, had lunch with a Buddhist, or ate a Kosher Sabbath meal with our Jewish friends? They are people, and according to Genesis they were created in the image of the Holy God. Just because they do not believe in what we believe does not make them evil. We must begin with the fact that people of other faiths are just that, people. If we can view them as people, we can see  that they are created in the image of the Holy God. They are not suddenly evil simply because they worship other gods. They are still people, and they are loved. John says that God loved the whole world (or rather, all people) that He gave his only Son. If we can start with this basis, than we can understand and relate to people so much more easily.

The final piece brings us back to fear. If we take the Bible seriously, we must understand that no person can do anything to us that is worth fearing. I ask that we read Romans 8 soon, and see that Paul agrees that there is no condemnation in Christ. Although we may currently suffer and may currently experience death, there is a resurrection that is coming. When that resurrection occurs, all who are asleep in Christ will rise up, and even if we stumble now, we will realize that all along there was nothing to fear. For if we are truly in Christ, and he in us, then on Resurrection Day we shall rise up with Him, and forever more fear nothing. We can, however, start this Kingdom principle today. Therefore we should fear not and seek peace. Love God, and do what Jesus commands us: love our neighbors, enemies, and friends. If we hate our enemies, are we any different than those who do not follow Christ?

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  • Daniel F

    Really? I totally agree that we cannot persecute people of other faiths and of none, and that we should love all people. True, man is inherently valuable because they are made in the image of God.

    The assertion that man is not evil is just incorrect. The Bible tells us that apart from Christ we are unrighteous indiviudals who, although we know the triune God of Christianity is true,  we supress it, and those who are not Christians and who never become Christians are given up to the lusts of their heart, exchanging the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:18-27). And thus, they are deserving judgement (as are we Christians, except in Christ there is no condemnation, so we are safe).

    So the truth is that just because they do not believe what we believe they ARE evil. We are evil because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And such were we, but in Christ there is no condemnation. This is the whole reason why we must love those who are of different faiths, why there is so much urgency that we care for them: if they don’t repent, there is only judgement.

    • No, Daniel F.  If you accept the Calvinist doctrines you are outlining here, you’ve gotta accept *all* of them.  If *all* have sinned and come short of the glory of God, then that “all” does not include the caveat “all who have not believed in Jesus.”

      So from this perspective, perhaps Jacob’s sentence should read “Just because they do not believe in what we believe does not make them any more evil than we are.”

      But his point is no less true.  Jacob’s context was not about whether people are under eternal condemnation or not (a subject where we likely disagree, but it’s beside the point in this article).  Jacob was saying that whatever people believe, we should approach them and treat them as people, not kill them as “evil” people.  Even if, as your theology suggests, everyone else is hellbound, we are not authorized to hasten their arrival there.

      • Daniel F

         Mate, I was agreeing that we need to love our neighbours, have compassion on our neighbours, care for our neighbours, not caring for where they are in relation to God, under wrath or under grace. Where do you get the impression that I have said otherwise? Where was I disagreeing with the command to “love your neighbours”?

        And I didnt caveat: I said that all have fallen short of the glory of God, including us Christians. Even Arminius held to the Total Depravity of man and his inability to save himself by his own righteousness. I was going for the anti-palagian line, not pro-calvinist. Palagianism has been declared anethema to the Church since the 3rd Century, yet here we are today and its still about. The Bible is clear: we are not all good people looking for God, we are fallen sinners who God looks for.

        As Christians, we are called to acknowledge that we are sinners, that we have fallen short of the glory of God, and that we deserve justice, which is damnation. But look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Paul writes a list of sins which prevent those who practice them from entering the kingdom of heaven. Its a list that should make us all gulp, as we all have at some point been guilty of these sins. And then Paul says: “And such were some of you”. So there has been a change upon coming to faith: you begin to stop doing these things. But that isn’t what saves you, no extent of stopping doing these things will. Why? Paul continues to explain “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.” So, here we are as Christians, still people who sin (see Romans 7:15-25), still damnable in our own actions, but redeemed in Christ! I wasn’t saying that Christians were more deserving of salvation. What I was saying is that nobody, not one, is upright enough to be saved. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, no caveat.

        And so when we look at non-Christians, we can’t say “you are the same as me”. You can say “you are human like me, with equal dignity and value as an image bearer of God”, and so you are thus compelled to love and care for that person in light of that dignity. But if you are a Christian, you are regenerated, having had the heart of stone removed and the heart of flesh placed within you (Ezekial 36:26-27). Christian, you are different from the world, and not by your own doing but by the grace of God.

  • Matteo

    Nice article. I would suggest that we all worship the same god i different ways.

  • Anonymous

    And I would say that this extends to anyone we deem as an enemy, not just those of other religious faiths, but also those of other races, cultures, sexual orientations, you name it.  

  • Kelly

    And, in this politically charged time, it’s important to also note that people with different political beliefs should not be seen as “the other” and somehow more imperfect than humankind overall. 

  • Jacob Evers

    My aim is not to dispute who or who is not going to hell or heaven. My aim is not to determine who is evil, and who is not. Jesus is our hope, and if that is the case, than we should fear nothing. We literally should not fear a single thing. Unfortunately, fear of other religions by Christians is usually bred from plain old ignorance. We don’t know what they are doing in that Mosque/Temple, and therefore, we should kill them, or yell at them, or tell them how they are so very wrong and condemned to hell. This was not the way of Jesus. He asked people about who they were, and what made them, well, them. We can learn from other world religions, and that is okay! Would it be okay to stand with another world religion if it meant helping to feed the hungry? What if by collaborating with another world religion our scientists, and theirs, were able to cure cancer? I know these are hypothetical situations, but many Christians cannot get past the fact that I may affirm without believing in another world religion. Affirming truth, grace, hope, peace, love, etc wherever it is found does not take away from the Gospel, I would argue that it makes our stances stronger, because now we look as though we are actually living what Jesus did, rather than going around and condemning everyone else, which Jesus only really did to those that practiced his own religion…Finally, I feel that claiming someone is evil simply because they are not with the “in crowd” is what makes people turn away from us. Maybe we are all sinners, and maybe we have all done wrong, but coming to a point where we say that people are evil is detrimental to the faith. Slavery is evil. Apartheid is evil. Genocide is evil. The people that commit these things are evil. The Bible may use the term evil, but when we use it, we are putting ourselves above others. The Muslim that feeds the hungry, and loves the poor, and blesses those who curse him, and prays for those that persecutes him, will never come to Jesus if we tell him he is evil. Why is he evil? Because he is a Muslim? That is what turns people off to us. God judges, we do not. We are called to love, and bless, and bring peace, and joy. These were our commandments. We follow Jesus, not take his place.

    Thank you for your comments so far everyone!

    • Kelly

      Wow! I love this comment. It encapsulates so much wisdom . . .

    • Daniel F

       I liked all of what you said…

      …until you said we have to tell people that they are fine without God, they are doing a good enough job anyway, that God doesn’t think that their best efforts are filthy rags. Beacause that is the implications of not telling people they are sinners, which is pretty much the same thing as saying you are not evil.

      You have to tell a Muslim friend that thier works are dirty rags, even their best ones, and dirty rags don’t save. Its the same message as you have to tell your athiest friends, Hindu friends, Jewish friends. All men are evil and deserving of judgement, and so the truth is “yes, you are evil because you have exchanged God for an idol. But so was, but for the grace of God in Christ.”

      You may not want to make this a salvation issue. But man’s sin is the greatest problem in the world, and Christ is the only answer. And the Gospel is offensive to the most basic belief of man: that we are essentially good is a lie.

      • Daniel F

         * “so was I, but for the grace of God in Christ”. And I should add to the end of that “and even now I am unworthy of salvation”

      • “…until you said we have to tell people that they are fine without God”

        @b7819496616144cf70fc9b393e68b7a8:disqus, please point out where Jacob said or implied anything of the sort.  He said we should work with people who are doing good whether they’re doing it out of reverence to God or not.  He said we should affirm good where we find it, even in the context of other religions.  But he also said “The Muslim that feeds the hungry, and loves the poor, and blesses those
        who curse him, and prays for those that persecutes him, will never come
        to Jesus if we tell him he is evil.”
          It seems to me this statement implies that coming to Jesus is an outcome Jacob desires for the Muslim.  That’s not universalism.

        You said:  “You have to tell a Muslim friend that thier works are dirty rags, even their best ones, and dirty rags don’t save.”  No, in fact, you don’t have to tell him any such thing.  That’s something Paul said to self-righteous Christians, not to unconverted nonbelievers.  It is the Holy Spirit who job it is is to convict of sin, not sanctimonious Christians.  You, and I, and Jacob, and every other loyal subject of King Jesus has to model Jesus’ love and sacrifice and kingdom, and thereby invite others to join it.  The conviction of sin will happen as and when the sinner realizes who’s Lord, not before.

        • Daniel F

           Actually, it was Isaiah who said my best works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). And yes, it is to humble the Christian who thinks that their works are good enough to earn them salvation, but how much more is it the case for those who reject the Christian God and believe that their god will save them for their works (or reward them for their works).

          The call of the Gospel is repent and believe. And that repentance isn’t merely a change of ideas. It is a repentance away from sin, which first involves acknowledging that you are a sinner, unworthy of the Kingdom of God. That’s the point of “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God”. It is those who know they have nothing spiritually who will enter the Kingdom.

          I’m not saying that we shouldn’t love our neighbour, please believe me. Of course we should stand together in common humanity and feed the hungry. But feeding the hungry doesn’t make one worthy of salvation, i.e. your good works don’t hide you sins from God. I am saying that not telling someone the predicament they are in because of their sin in the name of love is actually false love. It means that we don’t believe what God has said about himself: that he hates sin and will punish it.

          • Where, in all of Scripture, does it state that one must “acknowledge they are a sinner” before receiving grace from God?  Certainly some people did…though I think we have read a Four Laws paradigm into “what must I do to be saved” that is somewhat different than the contextual meaning of the question.  Likewise “repent” is a command that has far more to do with leaving an old way/path/course and taking up a new one, than it does with some Calvinist-style grovelling about how miserably evil one is.

            But the most important point, and the one at which I challenge you, is this:  To what scriptural evidence can you point to say that the role of evangelist (or anyone sharing the gospel) is to convince people of how evil their sins are?  Where in the New Testament is that the opening line to *any* proclamation of the good news?

          • Daniel F

            Seriously? You are saying that the Bible doesn’t present men as sinners who must repent of their sins to be saved?

            Jesus said that man must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5-6). Now, why would man need to be born again if he is alright in his first birth. And look at John 3:14-15. Look at the OT story that Jesus uses. Moses holding up the staff so that those who were poisoned because of their sins could look upon the staff and be healed. Jesus said that this is the same for us,  thats why he uses the story: you are a sinner, you have rebelled, you will be punished, but look to Christ and you will be saved and given eternal life. Hense why in John 3:16 Jesus can say that “whosever shall believe in him shall not perish [the implication being that those who don’t believe will perish] but have eternal life”. And don’t forget John 3:19-21: Jesus the light of the world has come into the world yet still “people loved the darkness rather than the liught because their works were [… and we pause for dramatic effect] EVIL”. 

            Jesus himself said “I have not come to save the healthy but the sick”. And the sickness isn’t merely an unfulfilled life, or a life of seperation from one’s “god consciousness”, but that sickness is sin that leads to death. But Jesus saves!

            So in answer to your challenge: look at Acts 2:37 –  the Jews have just heard that they have rejected Christ and killed him. They must be thinking “ut oh…”. They ask, therefore, how shall I be saved? And Peter’s answer is repent and be baptised and you will recieve the gift of the Holy Spirit.

            Look at Acts 3:11-26. Peter scolds and comdemns the Jews (his own people) for their unbelief, calling on themto repent.

            Look at Acts 10:43 – after explaining the story of Christ, what does Peter say that the benefit of the Gospel is? The forgiveness of sins. How can that be good news if you don’t think you are a sinner, or you think your sins aren’t bad enough for God to be angry at you?

            Most importantly, look at Acts 17:22-33. Paul to the Greeks. What does he say: you worship what you do not know. And what does God now command people everywhere to do? Repent (v30). Why? Because “he will judge the world in righteousness”

            And I haven’t even got onto the epistles and how they describe the unregenerate man.

            Also, whats the obsession with the New Testament. The Old Testament is the same promise: that those who have faith in God will be saved (read Hebrews for details). Jonah went to a gentile city, preached God’s judgement, and they all repented. All Scripture is God breathed…

            If Jesus didn’t come to solve the problem of sin, what did he come to do? And how can we be saved if we don’t aknowledge the problem that he came to solve?

          • Seriously? You are saying that the Bible doesn’t present men as sinners who must repent of their sins to be saved?

            Sure it does.  I never said it didn’t.  What I said is (1) it is the Spirit’s job, not ours, to convict others of their sins, and (2) there is no Biblical evidence that conviction of sin is a precondition to first coming to Christ.  In fact, I would argue to the contrary, that until we have submitted ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, the concept of sin is academic at best and nonsense at worst.

            So I never denied that sin is a problem, or that Christ is how it’s dealt with.  I stand by my denial that, as you said, we should be reminding/informing our Muslim and other nonbelieving friends that they’re sinners headed for hell.  That is not the way Jesus or the Apostles operated, and neither should we.

  • God has clearly commanded His people to kill those of other faiths in the past. What’s more, the explanation for the genocide of the people who inhabited Canaan was because they were indeed very evil. Is this compatible with the sentiments that you have expressed above?

    • Jacob Evers

      I think Eric, that we have to remember that commanded those wars in the Old Testament. God commanded those genocides. Are we God? Do we pretend to understand God? Has God commanded us to go and kill those of other faiths today? No, I may look to that same God, but now it is through the lens of Jesus Christ, who taught us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor. WHO is our neighbor? Everyone Jesus replies. So do we love people of other world religions by killing them? My thoughts are that Jesus would say no.

      My other question is, do you follow the teachings of the Old Testament or the New? And even if you follow the teachings of the Old Testament, none of my Jewish friends would ever say that the commands of genocide in the Old Testament are ever supposed to be carried out today.

      • It seems like you are dichotomizing God and Jesus here. I’m not sure how I feel about that. The teachings and commands of God and Jesus are not conceptually different as you seem to have suggested. While I agree that the command to annihilate a group of people in the old testament does not mean we should hate those around us now, it doesn’t seem to congeal well with your article, especially  your proposed motto: “Anabaptist way of thought that we will gladly die for our King, but never kill for him should be our motto.”

        If God commanded us to take up arms once again, would you obey? Would you deny that God?

        I follow the teachings of the Bible. That includes the old testament and the new as it applies to me today. Certainly the New Testament is more relevant to us now, but it is not a superimposed covenant. Rather it is the completion of the old covenant.

        • @simwaves1:disqus , I think the more germane question would be “if someone were to come to you today claiming that God commanded him/us/you to commit a similar genocidal act, how would you respond?”  In other words, how would you evaluate that claim knowing what we have been revealed of God through Jesus Christ.  A rather large swath of Christendom believes in some form of progressive revelation, that whatever may or may not have been true of God, or of human understanding of God, during the time of the O.T., the fullest and most complete revelation of God in history came in the person of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ.

          I would contend that given the revelation we now have of Jesus…revelation that was not available to the Israelites of 2000-1000 B.C….any claim of God-ordained genocide today is ipso facto false due to what we know of Jesus.  Whether that’s because God changed or our understanding of God changed or the extent of God’s revelation changed, is frankly a hair we need not split.  The fact remains that Jesus established a standard and we now have that standard and no excuse.

          So if someone *today* claims that God has commanded them to launch a war, that someone is either deceived or deceiving, or both.  That’s my judgment based on the combined revelation of Scripture with Jesus as the fullest revelation.

          What criteria would you use?

          • The question of how to interpret what we believe to be divine revelation is an important discussion; however, it is not relevant to my point. God has commanded blood shed on more than one occasion in the past. It is not inconceivable that He could give us such a command again if the situation warranted it. If God, in fact, does ask us to kill in his name, what then?

          • Jacob Evers

            I think the real question is, how does God interact with us today? Is it by giving us direct commands, or through the Scriptures? We are not a nation as Israel was, and I do not think that America is God’s people. Therefore, I do not think that God would speak to America and say “Go kill these people in my name.” Therefore, I have to go to the next source of God’s revelation, Scripture. When I go to Scripture, do I follow the Old Testament, or the New? Do I follow Jesus? Yes. Did Jesus say to kill Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Atheists, Buddhists, Druids, etc? No. He said to love them. Therefore, what am I to do? Kill people of other world religions, or love them?

          • 1 John 4:1 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are
            of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

            I submit that any spirit that claims God is ordaining genocide…or even war for that matter…is the spirit of a false prophet.  My evidence is Jesus.

            Therefore, your hypothetical is, if not a complete impossibility, a strong improbability.

            But if, in your hypothetical scenario, God was asking us to kill in his name, how do you propose to discern that it is God, father of the Prince of Peace, and not a representative of the Prince of Lies?  How will you discern the spirit that’s speaking?

    • @simwaves1:disqus … not with ya here.  The new covenant invites us into a different way of being human.  And on the passage you discuss regarding genocide, here is my take: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2010/03/10/kingdom-killing-of-canaanites-genocide-and-joshua/

      • The new covenant drastically changed the state of humanity, but it did not alter the character of God. The God that “had to use violence to purge the land of all influences that had the potential to corrupt his way of ordering society,” is the same God that we serve today.

  • This is great. I once took a world religions class where I expected to learn how to refute other belief systems. Instead we went and met with people of other religions in their space of worship and heard what they believed and found we’re all humans trying to find a connection to the divine. The way we find that is different, but we’re all just people. It was a great experience.