April 16, 2009
Considering Enemies of Christ--Even With Tears
Mike Pohlman, Editor, Christianity.com
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
I arrived at the Lucky's Market in Woodlake, Virginia about 6:30 p.m. last night. I had driven the eighteen or so miles from my office in downtown Richmond looking forward to being home with my family. But first I needed to stop at the market and get my ailing wife some Sprite. Julia, battling flu-like symptoms, thought this would sit relatively well with her queasy stomach.
I quickly found what I was looking for, paid the clerk, and proceeded out the door. As I approached my car a few young men—probably in their late teens—bounded out of their truck and began shouting obscenities to another young man at the pizza place next door. (Words I won’t even abbreviate here.) While it was clear they were joking, I was shocked at the lack of restraint these men used in public. I was glad my four young children were not with me—I would not have enjoyed fielding questions on the way home like, “Dad, what does ________ mean?”
The men were not only spewing obscenities, but were dressed in dark, Goth-like attire. It did not seem like a logical leap to assume these young adults were not professing Christians. They presented themselves more like “enemies of the cross of Christ” rather than followers of Christ.
What alarmed me more than their conduct and attire, however, was the way I responded.
I was angry at these men. I despised them in my heart. I wanted judgment poured out on them right then and there. I felt like James and John who were furious over the Samaritan village that rejected Jesus in Luke 9:54, “And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’”
But then I remembered our Lord’s response to his immature disciples.
He rebuked them.
Of course he did. Jesus is the one who said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Nothing had changed since the Sermon on the Mount.
The Apostle Paul took Jesus’ command to heart. Writing to the Philippians we get a window into how Paul viewed people who were utterly opposed to Christ.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Philippians 3:17-19).
Even as Paul exhorted his readers to imitate his godly example, he wept over the “enemies of the cross of Christ.” Why? Because unless things radically change for these people, “their end is destruction” (v. 19). Paul’s eternal perspective would not allow him to despise God’s enemies. He wrote of them “even with tears.”
It took me about three minutes to get home from Lucky's. Once in the driveway I stopped the car and, under deep conviction, prayed for the men at the market. I prayed that their end would not be destruction; that their God would not be their belly; that they would not glory in their shame or set their mind on mere earthly things. I prayed that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. But I also prayed for myself—that my heart would soften and tears more easily flow for the enemies of the cross of Christ.