Big Tent Christianity Reflection: Seeking Reconciliation

So I attended Big Tent Christianity last week, and it was a blast.  The whole thing included a fourteen hour drive (including a detour through Shenandoah) staying with my cousins in Chapel Hill (who are really great and I don’t see very often) and attending the conference (of course) with my wife and some friends that we share life with.  The conference could have been average overall and the trip would still have been fun.

Thirty-five speakers in two days.  Talk about some information overload.  As someone who isn’t great at introducing myself and starting up conversations, the opportunities to do that between sessions was difficult for me, since my brain was still processing everything the speakers had said.  That didn’t mean we didn’t have some great conversations or meet new people, but I wish I had been capable of doing more of that.

So here’s what I came away with, and it was something I’ve been thinking about for awhile that the lack of conversation about at Big Tent confirmed for me.

We as Christians lack a robust theology and practice of reconciliation and enemy-love.  We simply don’t know how to do it.  Most Christians don’t even agree that Jesus taught PHYSICAL non-violence, so the notion that maybe we shouldn’t be combative or aggressive with our ideas is DEFINITELY off the radar of most Christians.

I think we don’t get what Jesus means when he says “Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you.”  We tend to think of loving our enemies as what we DON’T do to people we dislike or disagree with.  “Even though this person is being extremely rude, I didn’t hit them.”  We think that not hurting our enemies is the same as loving them.  By all means, this is a first step, but what if Jesus’ instruction here is more proactive?  When we have enemies (however we would understand that) how do we seek to love and serve them?

This does NOT mean agreeing with them, or affirming what they believe.  For example, during the conference, Terry Jones was gearing up for his Koran burning, which was pretty universally condemned by, well, everyone.  In a sense, he set himself up as an enemy of my understanding of what Christian love is to represent.  So the question is, how do I (and other Christians) love and serve Terry Jones?  Again, not agree with.  Not affirm.

I admit I don’t know what this looks like.  I’m pretty sure anyone seeking to love and serve people who are spouting hateful and despicable messages are NOT going to look good!  Imagine trying to love and serve Fred Phelps!  Anyone attempting to do this will be exposing themselves to massive new amounts of condemnation, hateful speech, and possibly even hateful action.

But then we’d need to figure out how to love and serve THOSE people, too.

Some critical things I think this includes – A Christ-centered commitment to non-violence.  Relationship.  The Fruit of the Spirit.

What do you think about this?  Are there some people who are simply being SO despicable that it is impossible to love and serve them?  I’m suspicious God doesn’t think so.


~ by Joe Paparone on September 16, 2010.

One Response to “Big Tent Christianity Reflection: Seeking Reconciliation”

  1. […] I wrote a little bit about this awhile ago – Jesus says love your enemies, and I think most people take that to mean, “Don’t do or say mean things about your enemies.” That’s important, but it’s not exactly an active love. It’s just a refraining from further violence or confrontation. I think Jesus is challenging us to something more. […]

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