If you’ve read this blog for a while, then you might know that I like to keep up with how the “other side” thinks. I’m a talk radio junkie, and I especially like the ones where there’s lots of (mostly polite) disagreement on the air. I like to hear arguments from people who disagree with me, and I like to keep abreast of what Non-Christians are saying. I know names like Peter Singer and Christopher Hitchens, and I think you should too.
The main danger I face with my personality type, however, is that I tend to get caught up in caring more about the arguments than the person making the arguments. Behind every bad argument is a soul whom Christ loves and for whom he died. When I hear a debate and “our” side makes what I see as a “zinger” against “their” side, I feel like I’m at a hockey game and my team just sent the puck past the other goalie. I feel like cheering.
It’s kind of a paradox, isn’t it? In one sense, the Church has a lot enemies, and in another sense she only has one. You have the emergence of the “New Atheism,” or godless philosophy, or proponents of other religions. And of course there’s plenty of places where the state officially persecutes our siblings, so those would count as enemies as well. But in a very real sense, we only have one enemy. In fact, that’s literally his name: “Satan” means “accuser” or “adversary.” He’s the Father of lies, and every evil philosophy and every false religion and every state policy that works against the Church ultimately comes from him. This doesn’t diminish from an individual’s responsibility before God, but we should recognize that to some degree deception is involved. How much is the person’s responsibility and how much is Satan’s? That’s a call that’s above my pay grade.
But when we face an adversary (little “a”) of the church, we tend to hate the person and forget the bigger issues which are involved. No matter what the person has done, there’s hope for him/her.
Let’s do a thought experiment to illustrate what I’m trying to say. Imagine that you’re part of the first generation of Christians. You’ve finished your worship time in a brother’s house, and you’re heading home with a dear friend. As you’re walking towards your small house, you’re discussing the latest news and rumors, and of course that leads into the worry that plagues a lot of peoples’ minds.
“Have you heard the latest about this guy Saul of Tarsus? He’s been going from house to house and pulling Christians right out of their home, arresting them, and throwing them in prison. I tell you, I can’t wait for that monster to get what’s coming to him! In fact, rumor has it that he’s on his way here, to Damascus itself!”
I’m sure there were plenty of conversations that happened like that all over the area. There’s no way God could ever reach THAT man! He’s going straight to hell, and a lot of believers would be glad to see him going there.
But the Lord Jesus had other plans.
In the end, every single enemy of God will be destroyed. But his preferred method of destroying his enemies is by turning them into his children and beloved heirs.
That’s what we’re about, isn’t it? Not winning arguments, but winning souls. Just imagine with me, will you? Think about the foremost "enemies" of the church. Wouldn’t it be an incredible coup for the Kingdom if they became a believer? How's about the head of North Korea? Or the head of Planned Parenthood? Or the head of the A.C.L.U.? Or the head of GLAAD? Have you ever prayed for them? Do you want them to be saved, or is it easier to just dismiss them as another “Saul of Tarsus”? You know, God just might have other plans. . .
Lord Jesus, is there someone that you’re waiting for just ONE more prayer for? Just ONE more prayer and you’re ready to intervene in that person’s life in a big way? Well wherever you want me to stand in the gap, I’m ready.