Burning Coals and Korans
I’ve been very hesitant to give the “pastor” of the “church” in Florida any more notice than he’s already received. After seeing him interviewed on one of the early morning news shows yesterday, it became obvious that there is little coherent and rational — let alone Christian — thinking is behind this “plan.” Will he? Won’t he? Who cares.
Well, I do. Because labeling this man again and again as a “pastor” and calling whatever group of people can make sense of his teaching a “church” gives the impression that this is what you get when you read the Bible. That this is what Christians are all about. Call out your enemies. Expose their sin! No better are the calls for “tolerance” that I’ve heard. Now, this is to be expected from our political leaders in a pluralistic society — we are to pray for rulers so that we may lead quiet and peaceful lives, after all (1 Tim 2). But to hear Christian leaders call for tolerance likewise — if less damagingly to others — gives a false impression of Christian life and thinking.
What to do with enemies? This “pastor” says that we should expose their hate. By inciting them we prove that they are really evil. We call a spade a spade, we speak the “truth” about them and let the chips fall where they may.
What to do with enemies? Here is a different strategy
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,”Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, ”if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12)
The inability to love, and the call to incite, are in fact signs not of psychopathy (well, maybe it is) but, from a theological perspective, a lack of faith. Is Jesus actually Lord? If we confess that, and we live that confession out in our lives, then we have confidence that he will deal, in his way and at his time, with unbelief. And confident of his reign, we don’t need to incite, or avenge, or condemn. We have the confidence to love. What if, instead of burning Korans, we sent aid, church leaders, even ourselves to the people suffering from flooding in Pakistan — we were roused to do this for those suffering in New Orleans and Haiti, why not the Muslims and Hindus there? Might not that give a better testimony to who we are? Might it show that we are so confident in Christ and his rule that we can sacrifice, even for enemies? Might these “burning coals” open eyes to what life in Christ’s New Creation can look like?
We are not called to “live and let live.” We are called to give witness to the one who died so that others might live.