Did Jesus really mean that we’re supposed to pray for our enemies? Really?!

Patriotic crowds gathered outside the White House to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.
Last night, the White House announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in an air strike in Pakistan about a week ago. Facebook, Twitter, and—I’m sure—the blogosphere immediately erupted with celebration. In fact, large crowds gathered in front of the White House and in several major cities to celebrate. Just from checking my Facebook News Feed, you would’ve thought it meant we had won the global war on terror and that now a new age of global peace and prosperity can finally begin because we killed the one man who was standing in the way!
I had—and still have—some very mixed feelings about this whole deal, especially after reading how people are responding to the announcement of Osama’s death. I’ll admit, my first response was actually shocked disbelief:  I thought Osama was long dead and that we were just on a wild goose chase. Then I started to get a little excited. That us, until I looked at Facebook and realized all those un-Christian responses were really just saying what I was feeling deep inside… For example, I’ve read statuses that say, “rot in hell,” “gotcha b*tch,” and “really glad hells population increased with osama bin ladin. Really wish we could have tortured him a little first. Oh well burn in hell.” Oh, I forgot to mention that these posts are all from people who claim to be Christians. On the last one, someone commented, “This is the best news Ive heard in so long, that I don’t remember any better.Maybe he was tortured. We can hope!!Hopefully the devil is a very happy tonight.”
So, in light of Osama’s death how do we interpret Jesus’ commands in Matthew 5:43-44 to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us? In The Message of Matthew : The Kingdom of Heaven, Michael Green writes,

The Great Lover has poured his love upon us unworthy rebels. He has purified us, has adopted us into his kingdom, and wants us to be his ambassadors in the human kingdoms. How is it to be done, and how is our allegiance to be shown? Supremely, by love. Love is the mark which, above all else, should distinguish those who know themselves to have been found by a loving God (97).

Apparently, our interpretation is to simply ignore Jesus’ command, right? “Who cares. Let’s all just gloat over the fact that a man is dead and—we all presume—burning in hell.” But suddenly, I don’t see a difference between Evangelical Christians and the terrorists that we’re fighting against. Suddenly, the lines are beginning to blur. Consider the words of Ezekiel 18:23:  “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
What are your thoughts about this supposed victory? Is it ever okay for Christians to gloat over the death of someone? Does it matter how wicked we think they are? Should we ever be glad that someone is burning in hell? What’s a safe balance of patriotism and love? Or, in this case, is there a safe balance? Is this a case of either/or?
I am very obviously still sorting through all this, but I encourage you to leave your comments and let me know what you think is a good Christian response to this current event?

The Hardest Question I’ve Ever Asked

Why would Satan rebel?

Two years ago, while taking my Christian Theology class through Wayland Baptist University, I stumbled upon a question that has caused me more struggle and doubt with my faith than any other question. This question threw me into a fog for several weeks and, afterwards, I just decided to avoid it. If I would start to think about it I would try to mentally “change the subject” or I would try to distract myself. I was afraid of what the answer could mean and what that conclusion could mean about my entire faith. So, although I knew deep inside I was being intellectually dishonest with myself, I avoided the question; that is, until very recently.

First, I’ll pose the question that troubled me, then I’ll elaborate on a few things to help you understand why the it was so troublesome, and finally I’ll share with you my answer.
The question: How could Satan, after seeing God in all His glory, rebel against God and choose to pursue his own glory?
In order to better appreciate how disturbing this question is, consider two people…
God is the sovereign Creator of the universe. God is more than a big deal; he is the big deal. God is infinite in nature, omnipotent in power, and omniscient in knowledge. He created the universe without breaking a sweat, He has a plan that spans millennia, yet He knows the hairs on your head down to the number. Despite the vastness of our universe He knows us all intimately. He defies description and understanding. He cannot be fully understood and could never be controlled (Is 55:8-9). He is just in all His ways yet still merciful to us all (i.e. common grace). In short, God is perfect and deserves all worship and praise. At one point in the book that bears his name, Job is describing God’s unsearchable majesty and he uses powerful language to describe God’s power. For example, he says “the pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke” (Job 26:10). Job is describing the awesome power of God but then he says something even more amazing:  “Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!” (Job 26:14). According to A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word in this verse that we read as “outskirts” means “end, edge, border, extremity.” In other words, after all we’ve just read about God’s majesty, Job tells us that this is just the border. It’s like God is an entire continent and all we’ve seen is the shore! Job says, after all we’ve heard of God, it’s just a small whisper compared to the true reality of who God is and what God can do.
So how could Satan, after seeing God in all His glory, rebel against God and choose to pursue his own glory?
Satan is a finite, created being made by God to serve God and to worship God. He must appear before God and ask permission before he acts (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-7) so Satan should know who is in charge. Satan, we presume, has seen God in His fully glory and, we can also presume, has even worshiped God. Thus Satan should know that God’s glory is unfathomable and that he is no comparison. Satan should know better! How could Satan, after seeing God in all His glory, decide that instead of worshiping God, he would pursue his own glory?
To me, it just didn’t make sense. Perhaps there was something that went on behind the scenes that we didn’t know about. I know I’d heard about a strange theology where Satan was actually on God’s side; his job was just to test us. I didn’t like that idea! While it was possible that God had lost some degree of His creation, that idea honestly defies logic. How could the sovereign Creator of the universe lose control of anything? He made it and, if He wanted to, He could simply destroy it all with just a word (the same way He made it).
Reconsider some of the things we know about Satan. In John 8:44, NIV, Jesus says that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” He does not hold to the truth. In fact, truth is antithetical to his nature (the ESV says that when Satan lies he speaks out of his own character). When he lies, he speaks in his native language. I’m not sure what that even means but it sounds like no one could trust him; not even himself! Consider for a moment that even Satan is deceived by his own duplicity. Is it possible that Satan believes that, somehow at the end, he will beat God? Isn’t that foolish? I firmly believe that Satan is such a persuasive liar that He’s convinced himself that he will conquer God. Is it possible that Satan’s greatest victim is himself?
Which brings us to our answer. It shouldn’t make sense to rebel against God! After chewing on this problem for years, it dawned on me:  I was asking the theological equivalent to “Why does 3+4=6?” The truth is there is no logical answer! There is no good reason to rebel against God. That’s the answer. Rebellion against God shouldn’t make sense. It should baffle us that Satan would rebel against God.
Truthfully, and to make it more personal, it should baffle us that we choose to rebel against God. The Bible is not an exhaustive explanation of everything that ever happened. The Bible gives us everything we need to know, not necessarily everything we want to know. In fact, Deuteronomy 29:29 says that God will reveal enough to us for us to live obediently. There will still be “secret things” but we will know enough to live righteous, obedient lives that glorify Him.
(P.S. I realize that this doesn’t wrap everything up with a nice, tidy little bow on it. The truth is, there are still many things in the world that don’t make sense; those likely qualify as God’s “secret things.” What this realization does for me is it gives me assurance that Satan really is bad, God really is good, and it is foolish suicide to rebel against our Creator.)