Canadian truck drivers have been blocking a key US–Canada border crossing for several days to protest their government’s pandemic control measures. They are specifically demanding an end to federal COVID-19 mandates for cross-border traffic.
Are these truckers “trying to blockade . . . our democracy,” as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleges? Or does the self-named “Freedom Convoy” have “legitimate concerns,” as a Parliament member said in speaking out against Mr. Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic?
It depends on whom you ask.
As a possible invasion by Russia looms, many evangelical missionaries in Ukraine are staying in the country. They and the local leaders with whom they partner are ministering to refugees and helping their people prepare for what may come. Are they being foolish, or are they answering their commission to love the world as God loves the world?
Again, it depends on whom you ask.
Loving everyone he loves
We have been exploring this week the implications for Christians of our status as the “children of God.” Yesterday, we noted that if we are children of one Father, we are members of one family. We are called to love each other as sisters and brothers and to serve each other as we serve our Lord.
Today, let’s consider a corollary fact: as the children of God, we are to love the world as God loves the world, whether the world loves us or not.
John 3:16 famously declares that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.” Our Father is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
If we love him, we must love everyone he loves. And he loves everyone.
Canceling the “intolerant”
This fact is central to the Christian worldview. “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans,” as John reminds his readers in telling of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman (John 4:9). Jews typically regarded Gentiles as unclean (cf. Acts 10:28). Muslims see non-Muslims either as “infidels” or as “apostates” (former Muslims).
By contrast, Christians “love because [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Scripture teaches, “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).
Our secular culture claims to be similarly tolerant, insisting that no one can be wrong since there is no such thing as objective right and wrong. But we know that this is not true: seat belt laws and speed limits would thus be invalid, not to mention an entire system of laws built on our Constitution. And those who cancel people they consider intolerant demonstrate who the intolerant truly are.
By contrast, Christians know that every person is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and is loved unconditionally by their Creator. We are called to love them as our Father loves us.
Who is the true enemy?
I emphasize this fact because it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christians to see our secularized culture as anything but our enemy.
In numerous interviews and media events since the publication of my latest book, The Coming Tsunami, I have been asked whether the secular culture is “out to get us.” It’s easy to see those who threaten our religious liberty through the so-called Equality Act and similar measures as enemies of our faith. Those who brand us as “homophobic” and “hateful” for believing basic biblical morality feel similarly like antagonists and adversaries.
Each time, I remind the interviewer that lost people are not the enemy—Satan is the enemy (cf. John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:8). Lost people act like lost people. So did I before I met Jesus. So did you.
In his nefarious work to deceive and destroy humanity, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). As my friend John Stonestreet says, ideas have consequences—bad ideas have victims.
The key to courageous compassion
As a result, it is imperative that followers of Jesus see ourselves not as cultural warriors but as cultural missionaries. Like those serving in Ukraine and elsewhere around the world, we are not to view those who do not know Jesus as our enemies but as our potential sisters and brothers. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), offering them the same grace God has given to us.
If they reject our message and persecute us for sharing it, we are told by Jesus to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus added: “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (v. 46). It is when we love those who hate us that we prove and demonstrate the transforming love of Jesus.
In this way, we show skeptics the difference Jesus makes in our lives. And we attract those who see our light to the love of our Lord.
Of course, this is impossible to do in human strength. That’s why it is so urgent that you and I begin every day by being “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), asking the Holy Spirit to control and empower our day. Then, all through the day, we need to ask him to give us courageous compassion for our lost neighbors and culture. We need to ask him to speak his truth in our thoughts and through our words.
We can be confident that he has already prepared the hearts we are to engage with his love. And we can trust that he is using us to make an eternal difference wherever he leads us.
“I don’t love the Vietnamese any more”
I once heard a missionary share a remarkable story from his time serving in South Vietnam. It had been an especially difficult season of ministry. The people were unresponsive, the church was troubled, and the days were hard.
At the end of a particularly long and hot day, he returned to his apartment to discover that thieves had stolen all their possessions. Everything was gone except their couch.
That was too much. The missionary collapsed on that couch and cried out to God, “You have to get me out of here. I just don’t love these people. I don’t love the Vietnamese anymore.”
He told us that late that night, as he lay on that couch, the Lord spoke to him and said, “You’re not here because you love the Vietnamese people—you’re here because I love the Vietnamese people.”
Who are your Vietnamese people today?