Tears for enemies1
For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
- Philippians 3:18
Paul had tears in his eyes as he wrote to the Philippians about those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Tears are the healthy, appropriate emotional response to this reality.
In Paul's day, those enemies of the cross of Christ could have been the party known as the "Judiazers," those who tried to pull followers of Jesus back into the religious rituals and badges of belonging of the Jewish community. The cross of Christ - to them - wasn't enough to secure our place in God's family. Extra work was required.
There were also people who would harm others for talking about the cross of Christ. Throughout Paul's life, we hear stories of him suffering: being arrested and beated and stoned and left for dead. Ultimately, the enemies of the cross of Christ took Paul's life.
In our day, we have two equal and opposite temptations when it comes to enemies of the cross of Christ:
- We don't call anyone an enemy of the cross of Christ and turn a blind eye to opposition (which often means turning a blind eye to our brothers and sisters who suffer)
- We label everyone an enemy and blast away at them with self-righteousness
Neither of these approaches matches Paul's experience or what Scripture teaches. There are, indeed, enemies to the cross of Christ. And the existence of those enemies is not then license for arrogance or self-rightouesness.
You can't shed tears over people who don't exist and you won't shed tears while blasting away. Paul's soft-hearted yet honest response stands apart.
How do we come to terms with the reality that there are people who are enemies of the cross of Christ?
How are we called to relate to these people?
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