I'm a perfectionist and therefore a very bad decision-maker. There, I said it. I struggle often with understanding the purpose of this little nook in the cranny of the World Wide Webmonster. Is this a place for opinionated free-thinking or for Scripture-based teaching? Is it the home of the world's worst cook's cookbook, or a family album of adorable nieces, Regency balls, and phantasmagoric trips abroad? Is City Songbird a hoard of shameless gig promos, or a collection of creation? Of reviews or recordings? Of the silly or the sacred? Well, apparently, it is all of the above.
Some days are days for harmless tête-à-tête. Other days are days for gentle encouragement. Still others are days for brutal but honest conviction. The latter are the most anxiety-ridden, for I've seen the damage that "honest conviction" can do. So I sit on my windy little balcony, coffee at my elbow, air conditioner six stories down serving as white noise to distract me from the traffic-cluttered street below and the thought-cluttered mind within, thinking and thinking and alluding to but never typing exactly what I'm thinking, afraid of hurting or being hurt. Or worse still, being called a heretic.
But today... today is a new day. I'm going to say what's on my mind. I'm going to trust that the Spirit is still in my heart, guiding and guarding my thoughts and words and actions. And I might stir up the holy water a bit, but better a little choppy than stale. So. Here goes.
I have a problem with the way Christians (myself included) use God's word. We use it as a defense for our prejudiced -- no, not strong enough -- bigoted opinions. We use it to hate and bully others whose lifestyles and preferences we detest. We use it to judge and to tear down and to condemn. We do all this in the name of "edification," forgetting that to edify means to build up. We remember well that the Bible is "a double-edged sword," but instead of turning it on our Enemy, we turn it on one another -- on other Christians and on those of other faiths and decrees. We teach our children to do the same, preparing them with "Sword Drills" but often neglecting to teach them which Holy War they're being prepared to fight. With it, we slay our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, even our children. With it, we pierce and leave for dead those we should be protecting and fighting on behalf of.
We forget that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6). Not against the government. Not against the liberals. Not against the communists. Not against the conservatives. Not against the feminists. Not against the LGBT community. Not against the Catholics, nor the main-line churches. Not against the legalists or the licentious. Not even against the Arminians or the Calvinists. Not against the "effeminate" men or the unfeminine women. Not against the filthy-mouthed rappers or the over-sexualized pop idols. In short, not against any other human being, but against Satan. Truth is, we're so busy fighting our battles with one another, we don't even notice him craftily smirking on the sidelines, pleased with the work he has done in distracting us from the Real Battle so that he can keep dragging sword-less souls into the pits to share his sentence of despair and destruction. Really, we're making his job a whole lot easier.
I'm not exempt from this lot of sword-mishandling slayers. This is as much my own battle as it may be yours or the next person’s. But I hope someone'll hear me out while I crawl on my knees, scarred from the battles I've won as badly as the ones I've lost, begging the Church -- the Body of Jesus, Prince of Peace -- to please stop using God's word to break wills and hearts. Instead of using it to kill, we must use it to heal. Instead of using it to tear, we must use it to mend. If the greatest commandment is to love God and love one another, than the surest way to defeat the Enemy is to use God's word -- the one weapon He has for some reason given and trusted us with -- to love.
I read Matthew 5:43-45 for the umpteenth time this morning, and the Father graciously let me in on something I’ve overlooked or simply ignored so many times before, and that is: God loves His enemies. Loves them. Lavishes blessings on them – the sun, the rain (which may be difficult to see as a blessing in Ireland, but is sure as day a blessing in Israel), not to mention eternal salvation – all good things. And what does Jesus say reveals us as God’s children? Doing the same. Loving people. And not loving only those who love us back or at least agree with our doctrine, but loving those who disagree, despise, would destroy us if they could… like they tried to do to Jesus. What was His response? “Father, forgive them; they don’t realize what they’re doing…”
Father, forgive us. We don’t realize what we’re doing – how we’re slapping and beating and killing Christ Himself when we use Your very word against Your body, against Your image-bearers. Teach us to use Your word to love, rather than to prove our doctrinal positions. Teach us to wield this sword with truth and grace, aiming it true toward the heart of Satan, and placing it with grace into the hands of our brothers and sisters. Teach us which Holy War You'd have us fight, and keep us far from the battlefields of those in which our enemy is not actually our Enemy, but an object of Your love. And teach us to love as You do, so that we may be Your children.