Dr. James Emery WhiteJames Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
- 2015 Mar 19
If you are a true follower of Christ, you will have enemies. A lot of enemies.
This isn’t a popular idea.
Many Christians seem more intent on fitting into culture, or at least getting its affirmation, than opposing it. And the entire idea of being an enemy, or having one, seems out of sync with the Christ life.
But it isn’t.
Jesus made it very clear that He did not come to bring peace but a sword. Little wonder His own life did not end in a crowning but a crucifying.
The apostle Paul talked about open spiritual warfare in his letter to Ephesians.
The Bible speaks plainly about the “god” of this fallen world, and it is Satan himself.
So why is there such a great temptation for Christians today to opt for a popular stance instead of a prophetic one?
For many, there is such a bitter taste in their mouth from the caustic and abrasive era of the “Moral Majority” and religious “right.” So much so that they have over-compensated by not wanting to be seen as condemning anything.
For others, it is spiritual insecurity. Somehow they are not “legitimate” until they land on Oprah, are covered by USA Today, or are fawned over by Slate.
It is as if our model is Bono – be a rock star while espousing Christian faith. Not to denigrate Bono, but the better model would be Bonhoeffer. Someone who clearly saw the lines of good and evil, and worked tirelessly to overthrow evil (in his case, Hitler and the Third Reich). Rather than popularity, for Bonhoefffer, it ended in execution at a concentration camp.
Suffice it to say, we are behind enemy lines. When behind enemy lines, there are, well, enemies. The goal is not to be enemy-free, as if Christianity at its purest is so winsome and compelling that no one who “gets it” will ever reject it.
No, the gospel is scandalous and offensive. Many will openly reject it, not to mention its moral mandates. We are not to embody culture, as John Stott wisely wrote, but the Christian counter-culture. The kingdom of God that we advance is not the kingdom currently in place.
So don’t worry about having enemies.
Instead, concern yourself with having the right ones – and for the right reasons.
Don’t have enemies because you are intentionally offensive in spirit and inter-relational dynamics.
Don’t have enemies because you are caustic and abrasive.
Don’t have enemies because you are unfeeling and unloving.
Do have enemies because you stand for truth.
Do have enemies because you will not waver in the face of majority opinion when it crashes against biblical authority.
Do have enemies when you will not personally compromise your convictions.
After all, Jesus did.
And did you really think following Him would avoid any kind of cross?
James Emery White
John Stott, Christian Counter-Culture (InterVarsity Press).
Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. You can also find out more information about the upcoming 2015 Church and Culture Conference. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.