On another journal, which has generated some heated discussion here and there, someone declares that she "loves" George W. Bush. Fair enough. Let me say for the record:
I love George W. Bush.
To the best of my ability, I also love:
Osama Bin Ladin
Lord help me, I also pray for the grace to love Rush Limbaugh
and even Dick Cheney.
As a Christian, I must love these people. I have no option otherwise. I am commanded by my Lord and Savior, GWB's favorite philosopher, in this vein:
Love your enemies bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you.
So I do, in fact, pray for George Bush and John Ashcroft, among others, who I must regard, based on their own testimony to that effect, as brothers to me in the faith of Christ. I will here and now also testify that I have, on certain occasions, been moved by the Spirit of God to pray for Saddam Hussein and also for Osama bin Ladin.
I resonate with the words of Paul:
"It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."
Since it is as appropriate for me to call myself the chief of sinners, as it was for Paul to say the same thing about himself, to imply that someone is a greater sinner than myself, or for that matter than God's chosen apostle to the nations, would be to fail to accept this faithful saying, to deny the validity of the word of God in this instance, and to, in essence, insofar as this particular quote is to be regarded, like the rest of the New Testament, as the word of God, to call God a liar. In what way might I call God a liar? By announcing that some human being is a worse sinner than myself (or, maybe, Paul) in the way that has become fashionable even among some of those dear souls mentioned above: referring to others on this list of mine as "evil."
Usually, in today's world, when someone says that someone else is "evil" it is meant to indicated a degree of separation between the person so identified and oneself. But I must recognize this hard fact:
George W. Bush is no more evil than I am.
Saddam Hussein is no more evil than I am.
Osama bin Ladin is no more evil than I am.
It's true that all of these three can with justification be called mass murderers, even though none, so far as is known, has killed anyone with their own hands. But if I call one or another of them evil, then the following Biblical principle begins to apply to me:
"At whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." (Romans 2:1)
So, let me state for the record the following assertion.
It is an evil act to call another human being evil, in such a way as to make oneself out to be, by contrast, good.
I do not, therefore say that George W. Bush is evil, though I am sometimes tempted to do so. But I will say that by calling other human beings evil, he has committed an evil act; one for which he needs to seek and find forgiveness, as I also need to seek and find forgiveness for the evil acts which I have from time to time done.
Nor do I say that Saddam Hussein is evil, though that temptation is also there. But I will say that through ruthless acts of governance he has committed evil acts, for which he will need to seek and find forgiveness; I pray that he will have the ability to do so before he dies.
Similarly, though it is personally a stretch to do so,I must insist that to claim that Osama bin Ladin is evil would diminish me, and would not hurt him; certainly he has committed and caused to be committed many evil acts. For these I believe that he needs to seek and find forgiveness, and it is my responsibility as a Christian to pray that this would happen, for "the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
Note that I have not made any claim here that George W. Bush, or Osama bin Ladin, or Saddam Hussein or anyone else is basically good, either. Human beings are as incapable of being completely good as they are of being completely evil. Each of us is a mixture. To claim otherwise is to participate in a lie from Hell itself.
Each of these gentlemen has been made in the image of God. Each has horribly mangled that image, almost beyond recognition. But if Jesus Christ has any truth in him at all, then each can be redeemed.
That is what Christians should be saying, no matter what political party or country they come from.
May I say this? War is evil. But soldiers are like everyone else: for the most part, doing the best they can with what they've got.
Jesus said, the time is coming when whoever kills you will think they are doing service to God.
Who was he talking to? Is a Christian who kills, thinking he is doing service to God, any different from a Muslim who kills, thinking he is doing service to God?
Are there really Christians who take pleasure in the thought that human beings, whoever they call evil, will die, even though they claim to revere a Bible in which God says, I take no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord, but rather that they turn from their wicked ways, and live? (Ezekiel 18:32)
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light, and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight! —Isaiah 5:20-21
So yes, I love George W Bush enough to mourn for the state of his soul and pray that he will forsake the way of violence and hatred and fear that pervades his government. I love Dick Cheney enough that I pray he will break free from the cocoon of fear that seems to influence practically everything he says and does, from hiding in holes in the ground to repeating lies that even his own president no longer supports.
I love John Kerry enough to hope and pray that he will get the courage to stop trying to walk both sides of the fence on the matter of war. And I love America enough that I pray earnestly that no matter who becomes president next January, we will forsake the policy of using fear and violence to try to overcome our fear of violence. We should export more food and medicine, and less of guns and armaments. I'd like to see a president whose actions give more regard to the philosophy of Jesus than they do to that of Machiavelli.
And I love Jesus enough that I hope to live to see in some measure the fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah (2:4), speaking of the influence of Messiah in the world:
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
And what a glory day it will be when someone in modern Israel looks at that very verse, and takes it to heart enough to say (2:5): Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
But as for those who think that it is somehow our task to help bring about, through violence, the apocalyptic horrors of a literal reading of Revelation, I think these words of Isaiah apply (5:4-5) Woe.... to those who say, Let God hurry, let him hasten his work, so we may see it. Let it approach, let the plan of the Holy One of Israel come, so we may know it." Woe to those who call evil good and good evil...."