Love Your Enemies
“Minister to burn Quran.” The media have been tracking this story about terry Jones, evangelical pastor of the fifty-member Dove World Outreach Center (Gainesville, Florida), who is threatening to burn copies of the Quran this Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Protests from the White house, the State Department and General David Petraeus (Commander of US forces in Afghanistan) notwithstanding, Jones appears to be determined to proceed with the public burning—though he indicated this week to the Associated Press that he “still praying” about his decision. An interfaith coalition of Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish and Muslim leaders has condemned the plan as “a violation of American values and the Bible” (SBTribune 9-8-10).
It’s sad, isn’t it? No matter how deeply held our convictions about our personal or collective Christian faith, how would the public destruction of the holy book of Islam (one of the world’s three monotheistic religions, along with Christianity and Judaism) possibly advance our own faith in any circle, let alone among Muslims? Did Jesus call for the burning of the Roman Empire’s pagan “holy book” scrolls as an object lesson of his teachings’ superiority? Hardly. Instead he taught his followers, “‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you’” (Matthew 5:44).
Did you catch that? “Pray” for those you wish to win to Christ. For that reason our new 40 days of Prayer season here on campus and in this congregation is focused, not only on seeking a greater infilling of the Spirit of Jesus for ourselves, but also on praying for those who need to know the Savior—five people you know who, if Christ were to return tonight, wouldn’t be ready—five men, women, young adults, teenagers, children (your list may quickly grow beyond five) whose salvation you are earnestly seeking. What’s the strategy? Pray. For in that daily season of praying your heart and mine will be prompted by the Spirit with creative ways we can reach out to those we pray for—an email, a phone call, a visit, an I’ve-been-thinking-of- you-and-praying-for-you card, a favorite recipe, a helping hand—the list is endless. But it all must begin with prayer, “For this is the only method by which you can reach hearts. It is not your work, but the work of Christ who is by your side, that impresses hearts” (quoted in 40 Days: Prayers and Devotions to Prepare for the Second Coming p 9).
The ninth anniversary of September 11 will come and go. But, what must not come and go is Jesus’ Spirit of interceding prayer. Pray, pray, pray. For surely through his praying children, the Creator of us all can invade every land and every religion with the shining truth about Himself. And that’s one fiery passion we can all share.