Last night at RUF, I heard the most amazing story. I was floored. I’m not much of a hand-raiser in worship, but honestly, I couldn’t keep my hands down after hearing this story.
The gist is this: a black musician Daryl Davis in 1983 met a man at an all-white wedding reception he was performing for one evening. The man happened to be part of the Ku Klux Klan and gave Davis the number of Roger Kelly, the former Imperial Wizard of the Klan. Through conversation, the two became friends, and Kelly along with twelve other men eventually quit the group.
Guys, this man is black. He was either hated or considered highly inferior by these men. These people were part of an organization that sought to kill and persecute his race just years earlier, or sought to, in the least, make them second-class citizens. This was not in 2017… this was just a few years after the Civil Rights Movement.
All of this, and he decided to be their friend.
That’s the last thing I would choose to do. I wouldn’t even THINK “maybe I should befriend with these people.” I would immediately choose to give them the truth, to claim righteous anger, to voice my opinion, to show them my humanity, to fight for justice.
Yet this man, in all humility, chose to be their friend.
And because of that humble and gentle love, because of his kindness, walls of hostility and hatred were torn down.
Jesus talked about it a lot. Praying for those that persecute you, eating with the people that are different, loving your enemies, loving all neighbors as yourself, letting someone slap your other cheek when they’ve already damaged the first… I’ve always taken these statements, accepted them, without really choosing to do that in my own life. In fact, though I accepted them because they come from God, I’ve always been frustrated by them. I don’t want to be slapped on both cheeks. I don’t want my friends to be slapped on both cheeks. I want to fight back in the name of justice and righteous anger.
But Christ says that true love is being committed to care for those that hate you.
This is the kind of love that changes hearts.
So what does this look like for my life, for your life, friends?
The fact is that, I’m not persecuted in my everyday life. I don’t have many people coming and slapping me on the cheek. I don’t have that many “enemies” in the traditional, conventional sense (that I’m aware of, lol?). I live in the Bible Belt of America, where if you don’t claim Christianity, you’re probably the odd ball out. I don’t have to face much objection in my everyday life.
But there are those people that I am hostile towards. There are people that I don’t want to be associated with. There are those people that are rude. There are those that make unjust social accusations against me. There are those people that I want to see brought low, that misunderstand me. There are those people to whom my heart has grown cold as I watch their actions, the way that they treat other people, the words they choose, their callus political agenda. There are those that I do not want to call “friend.” And if they fall into these category of “not friend,” then the fact is that these people are (at least the closest thing I have to) enemies.
And you know what? The real Enemy loves this. It excites him when I choose to stay away from these people, instead of drawing nearer to them with a humble heart. He would love me to chose to hate Donald Trump. It would thrill him if I channelled hatred toward Hilary Clinton. It would make his soul happy if I considered myself superior to people that were not my race, and he would simultaneously love for me to hate racist people. Satan would be exhilarated that I chose to avoid the girl that has the RBF instead of asking her for coffee. He would take great pleasure if I hardened my heart towards people that look down on me because my blonde hair and enthusiastic attitude causes them to view me as unintelligent instead of approaching them with grace and a humble heart. These divisions and avoidances would make the chasm greater, and that’s exactly what he wants.
Our real Enemy would be delighted that we would choose to hate our earthly enemies, and relish that we would seethe in self-induced isolation from all those that we felt misunderstood and scorned by.
But this is the power of Christ, that while we are enemies, still defiled, still hostile towards God— He comes to us, and pulls us into His everlasting love. And we are reunited with Him.
And now, what other might call “loss” (getting slapped on the cheek twice, being gossiped about, being called naive), we consider gain. Because in those moments, we get to love like Christ did for us, and we get to do this for others. Though we endure this present pain, we will be reunited with others and Christ by love.
When we rejected Him, He chose to eat with us.
When we called Him “enemy,” He called us “friend.”
When we killed Him and caused Him to be descended to hell….
He called us “beloved” and claimed victory.
What a God we serve, that to truly win over our enemies, we befriend them.
I will leave you with an analogy I realized in Chemistry class Friday. I’m sure it’s not original, but I was so blown by this. Our generation LOVES Frozen (for the most part), but why? What do we love so much about this story beyond the music and medieval theme?
It’s a story of the gospel.
(Note here: many fairytales and stories are, but check out details in this one. Also, spoiler alert if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen Frozen yet. Please don’t read this if you haven’t. It won’t make sense and then you’ll know the end and I will just be really sad and might have to consider this post a fail.)
Think about it… a girl is born with this curse, a curse that causes her to hurt people, hide, and puts a wall between her and the world. Her sister, out of great love for her, constantly and gently tries to coax her into communion with others, and she might open up sometimes, but mostly she’s hostile and hard.
Her curse is found out, and she runs away. She builds her “kingdom of isolation,” all the while not realizing that her sister hasn’t given up on her. Elsa is the source of Ana’s pain, and she still runs after her, careless of her own well-being. She climbs over mountains, travels through valleys, encounters wolves, and finally reaches Elsa! Ana enters Elsa’s isolated castle, only to be rejected by her and struck in the heart, causing Ana a slow but evident death.
Elsa is captured, by trying to run from the one person that loves her the most in the entire world, and Ana is dying because of her. But Ana, when faced with the choice to save herself or save her sister, chooses to sacrifice her whole life for her sister, becoming a cold, lifeless figure to save her sister’s life– the same sister that caused her pain and grief her whole life, yet she took delight in selflessly loving her.
But then, against all odds, she is unfrozen. And Elsa realizes the solution to all her problems is what she was running from: love. She releases it into the air, and everyone is reunited.
So what do a black musician, Princess Ana, and Jesus have in common?
They know this truth: love really is the most excellent way.
So go out, friends.
He has given you every spiritual gift necessary.
He has sent you to fight with prayer, petition, friendship, love…
and thaw the Arendelle of your life.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-13