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May 3, 2011

Coexist

Is this the best we can do?

Perhaps you’ve seen the “Coexist” bumper sticker. There are several variations of this, but the one I’ve seen most often is as follows: The “C” is the half moon of Islam. The “O” is the peace sign. The “E” is for male/female. The “X” is the Jewish star. The “I” is dotted with a Wiccan Pentangle. The “S” is the symbol for the yin-yang of Confucianism. The “T” is a cross for Christianity.

d201_coexist%20bumper%20sticker.jpg

Obviously, we’re supposed to see that symbol and think, Yes, that’s what the world needs. We simply need to live and let live. But because I’ve been immersed in Jesus’ words, I see it as tepid and insipid. Can you imagine Jesus saying, “Just coexist with those who don’t agree with you—that’s all I ask”? Of course not! Jesus demands a great deal more. He tells us to love.

But what about an enemy such as Osama bin Laden, who has brought destruction and grief to thousands? Surely such a command couldn’t apply to someone like him.

This is a sticky one that I’m struggling with. David had no trouble wishing the destruction of his enemies. In Psalm 54:5, he prayed, “May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them. Do as you promised and put an end to them.” Of course, he had the advantage of heading up Israel, whom God promised to prosper if they obeyed him. We can make no such claim.

Nevertheless, I feel relief that such a destructive person’s time on earth has ended—just as I would be if I heard that a notorious serial killer had been apprehended. But I have to guard my heart against feeling hatred stirred up again against those who wish my nation’s destruction. I still have to deal with Jesus’ command to love.

In Matthew 5:43–44, Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” And in verse 46, “If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.” And of course, in Matthew 22 he gives us the greatest commandments: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ . . . A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

So the next time you see one of those bumper stickers, pray for those it represents. After all, it would have been even more fantastic if Osama bin Laden had repented of his sin. And also pray for yourself—that you’ll be able to love as Jesus does, undeservedly and with great abandonment.

Comments

COEXIST ? LOVE ? your article sounds all touchy feely and oh, so politically correct. What about TRUTH ? Does not true love challenge ignorance? If Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life and no man gets to heaven w/o Him then a faithful servant MUST make that truth the the core of any message delivered in true love. Your article seems to lack that discernment and conviction of one fully committed to faithful service. Now , my prayer is that God would open your eyes to see Him foremost and then you may be better able to minister to others.

I was truly sorry to see the previous post. I think that the point of the article was missed-we are called to love and that implies that we should love in spirit and in truth-do practical things to bless those around us as well as share as the Lord leads.
Keep up the great work, Johanna.

I absolutely agree with Bob! I was dissapointed in this article. I thought it was going to be about how we need to go out into the world and reach it for Christ- and we can't do that if we are content to let people live in sin and ignorance.
We need to admonish and correct people lovingly, so that they can see the love of Christ, but we do need to challenge them a little bit.

Great post! Jesus never gives you the option of the easy way out.

JoHannah,
You are right on. Love comes first. Sure, I too am glad to see justice come to a man who has lived a hateful-murderous life…yet, it is still a live that grieves God nonetheless. Now, to those who posted negative comments about your post…Really? Where do you get that we are to go out and win people to Christ by telling them about their sin or judging them? Read 1 Corinthians 5:11-13…why would we spend time condemning those outside the church when we have enough judging to do inside the church…until they commit their lives to Christ, we cannot set our standards on them…they do not have to live by them…they are not saved. Christ himself said He came into the world to save it, not condemn it. Only those that entered into debate with Him did He engage and show their faults. As JoHannah states here, we will win more people to Christ if we spent more time praying for and loving those outside the church and less time worrying about their sins!! God said he will take care of that.

It seems like your words and your heart have been misunderstood by some...I really appreciated the way that you conveyed your struggle and challenged us to live out the gospel....Sometimes the loving thing to do is to help someone see their sin, to recognize their need for a Savior...because we love them... Expressing that in a tender compassionate way is imperative!
It doesn't mean that it's our job to point out everyone's sin and where they fall short.

I think the article was good however I think what people are raising their hackles at is that when you see that bumper sticker it's saying more than just "live and let live" it's feeding the lie that "there are many paths to God" which is a little different. I agree with the writer that it's hard to figure out how to respond to osama's death, most of the country seems like it would have loved to put his head on a pike and carry the corpse through the streets. and while Osama was the cause to much hatred and pain and death it's hard to reconcile that God still created him and loves him and wanted to have a personal relaionship with him. We tend to fall into the trap of "only good people deserved to be saved" when the truth is that no one "deserves" to be saved, it's all God's/Christ's doing, it's all grace. Also Chad is right, we're not called to punish the unsaved, we're told not to live like them, they are not under the same Spirit we are, they are of the world and spiritually dead, but we who are made alive in Christ are called to lift each other up and keep each other accountable not in a legalistic way but in the way of love which comes from the Holy Spirit. Good article.

For those who seem top think loving our enemy is touchy-feely, may I suggest that it is perhaps the most impossible thing to do outside of the grace of God?

Correcting and admonishing (as mentioned in most places in the NT, like 2 Thessalonians 3) is in reference to other believers. The only place where it may be in inclusive reference to non-believers, it first speaks of not being quarrelsome, always preserving the bond of peace, and being willing to suffer wrong. All correction must take place in gentleness and courtesy.

It certainly does sound to me like love must prevail in all situations, even in the rare instance where a correction is called for.

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