“Why Can’t We Be Friends?” … Praying for enemies … Not in these circles …


Today was the first day of "Lunch Spot." Eric began this ministry about ten years ago to students at one of the high schools many of our students attend. Walking through the line one of the students joked about getting along. I told her she should locate the old song, "Why Can’t We Be Friends?" It dawned on me most of the students hearing me would not know of the group "War." Do you see the contradiction in the musical group name and the album title? Would we have war if we could find a way to be friends?

Last night I listened to a talk given by Brian McLaren at the 2003 Emergent Convention. The podcast is available titled, "Brian McLaren Speaks About a Christian Response to War." If you did not want to listen to the Q&A, you could listen to this one in just over 30 minutes. I thought it was perceptive of Brian to suggest that while today not everyone may be a pacifist, one day everyone would be a pacifist. References to Jesus’ charge to pray for our enemies undergirded the wrestling talk referred to as a "Sermon for President Bush."


"Why Can’t We Be Friends," seems to be the theme of a couple of Wade Burleson’s recent posts (here , here, and here). I sympathize with Wade when he marvels at the lack of understanding by those who have read these posts and maintain an us vs. them warring mentality. It reminded me of a conversation a few years ago wherein, seated at a table with, prominent "resurgence architects" told me, "You don’t know what they have done to us." This was an attempt to help me understand the justification for actions to resist admission of the CBF to the BWA. Lost were the words of Jesus, "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matt. 5:39, ESV) Or how about, "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matt. 5:44, ESV) When the words of Jesus are so easily set aside, it calls into question anyone’s understanding of an inerrant Scripture.

In Brian McLaren’s talk mentioned earlier, he noted growing up in a dispensationalist environment. Brian pointed out the inherent disregard for living the way of Jesus in the present as it would be something that would happen in the "millenial reign." Talk of how to follow Jesus and live his way was eclipsed by the necessity to get one’s ticket punched (my euphemism).

I would not suggest the "resurgence architects" set aside the way of Jesus. Instead, I would say it was subjugated to a politic of power under the guise of Biblical fidelity. My friend Jeff prides himself on being something of a "simple redneck." He would remind us, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …" Yes, it is a duck. Taking the words of Jesus as paramount means the submission of my own Kingdom to the Kingdom of God. When ethical decisions appear devoid of the ethic of Jesus it is time to deconstruct hegemonic positions. If we discover a rouse then let’s call it a rouse.

Here we are years after the formation of the CBF and we still find those who "won" pressing the issue. Jesus said, ‘You have heard it said an eye for an eye." I could not find any piece that could be construed as a first "slap" leading up to this article by Tomlin. So, what kind of "strike" is this? Fifteen years after the formation of the CBF we fill space with questions of reporting. Now let’s see in Greensboro we declined to get serious about our membership reporting but we are willing to call into question the reporting of others.(See the Ethics Daily piece.) "But I say to you …." How is this life in the Kingdom? Insipid tit for tat. And some wonder why young pastors become disillusioned by it all. Yes, I know some younger than I will immediately race in and pay homage to those who won the war having gone before and turn a blind eye to the lack of living out of the very inerrant Scripture for which the battle was waged. A bit self-serving?

And then I read a post from Dr. Davis, RDD to me. "Cooperative Baptist Fellowship," contains Rick’s personal reflections. It should not be lost that,

Reflecting on the 100 minute drive home, it suddenly occurred to me
where the genius of this meeting lay. There was absolutely no mention
of the SBC. None. Not one.

Before anyone questions the high regard for which Rick holds the Scriptures let me give you an anecdotal illustration. Twenty years ago this month I began serving on a church staff pastored by Dr. Davis. We often talked about the Bible. His favorite phrase when confronted with someone who wanted to offer personal interjections about life and faith that seemed more rooted in an Oprah styled theology was, "You see, I have this problem, it’s the Bible." For Rick the place from which we move is the inscripturated word of God. (Now Rick may not use my particular phrase, but he nonetheless held/holds a high view of Scripture).


I am glad Paul waded in (maybe you got that one!). He may well have issued the same call "War" did in 1975, "Why Can’t We Be Friends?" We may well need to re-read Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount to understand the determination of an enemy may better be left to those who choose us as enemies rather than set out to identify enemies for ourselves. In other words, if we determine to have no enemies then the designation comes from without rather than within. If we determine to not have (call, identify as such any person) enemies we may then view everyone as neighbor and put down our arms. An action especially important for those whom we portray as our enemies when they too carry our King’s banner.

Brian McLaren’s call to President Bush still rings in my ears. Would we issue the same call to the children of the USA to send a dollar to help re-build Iraq as he made to re-build Afghanistan? Will we rise to the place where we view the people of the world as our brothers? Would we hear Jesus again helping those in his day understand everyone is our neighbor? We could translate the questions for denominational flaps. Would we issue a call to the people of the SBC to send a dollar to help re-build the tarnished reputation of warring Christians who should turn cheeks and pray rather than castigate? Will we stop looking at the specks in our fellow Christians eyes and rid our own optics of the beams obstructing our own clarity? Would we hear Jesus speak from our "inerrant" Scriptures and be more bent to do what he says than create positions of power from which to snipe at others attempting to follow Jesus?

Maybe we could play War’s anthem at the annual meeting in San Antonio … "Why Can’t We Be Friends?"

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.