Monthly Archives: September 2011

Why We Christians Don’t Love Our Enemies

Ted Grimsrud—September 24, 2011

If there is one passage in the entire Bible that points to both the glory and the shame of Christianity, it is this famous statement by Jesus: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:44-45).  Here we have a direct statement of a profound ideal, a call to break the cycle of violence that so bedevils our world.  And here we have as stark a reminder as we could imagine of just how far Christianity tends to have strayed from the will of its founder.

“Love Your Enemies”: An Obvious Need in Our World

“Love your enemies,” such an obvious statement of what our world needs.  We see so clearly in our present day how hatred of enemies fuels war with simply incredible costs – in the name of stamping out “terrorists” our country spends billions upon billions to pour violence upon the nation of Iraq, diverts resources in a way that made the Gulf Coast more vulnerable to devastation from recent hurricanes, alienates people throughout the world, sends hundreds upon hundreds of our soldiers to their death along with thousands upon thousands of Iraqis.  This hatred fuels a spinning cycle, eye for an eye for an eye leading to more and more blindness.

Hatred of enemies fuels our nation’s prison-industrial complex, sending millions behind bars where they are all too often brutalized, infected with devastating diseases such as hepatitis, permanently disenfranchised as stakeholders in civil society (as someone said, no matter how long a convicted criminal’s official sentence might be, it is invariably a “life sentence” in terms of the impact going to prison has on one’s life).  In the name of “security,” we only increase the spiral of destruction and alienation.

In many other ways as well, hatred of enemies leads to unhappiness, brokenness, pain being visited upon pain – and the cycle of creating only more hatred.  So, Jesus’ words cut like a warm knife through butter.  He gets to the heart of things – we need to find ways to love instead of hate.  We need to find ways to forgive instead of simply punish.  We need to find ways to heal when there is brokenness, not simply retaliate. Continue reading

The 21st Century According to the Book of Revelation

[This is the first in a series of sermons in interpreting America in the 21st century in light of the Book of Revelation. The series will continue, monthly for about two years.]

Ted Grimsrud

Shalom Mennonite Congregation—September 11, 2011

I have a memory I can’t get rid of. It’s from now over forty years ago, but it remains etched, vividly, in my mind’s eye. I grew up in the tiny town of Elkton, in southwestern Oregon’s Coast Range. The next town 14 miles away, our archrival, is Drain. (We told this joke: Why is Oregon so wet? It only has one small Drain.)

We drove over to play them in basketball my junior year in high school. Drain was bigger and they were in the next higher classification (for small schools instead of tiny schools). So this was big for us. And we beat them in an intense game, by two points.

I should add here I have another vivid memory from that night. My dad was our coach; he coached for 29 years. In all those years, he got one technical foul called on him. It was that night. And it was because of me. The refs called a foul on me, a bad call of course. And my dad hopped off the bench to protest. His only technical ever. I realized then that he really did care about me.

As you can imagine, on the bus ride home we were happy. But it rained hard; the road is windy. As our bus approached one of the very few straight places on the road a car roared up from behind, horn blaring, and speeded past. We recognized the car, the Zosel sisters, recent grads. They celebrated too, waving madly at our bus as they streaked by. Then, just as they pulled ahead, illumined by the bus’s headlights, the car began to spin out of control on the slick asphalt. And everything went into ultra slow motion.

We watched horrified as the car hurtled off the road—inch by inch it seemed. Whoa….Now, it turns out that everybody was okay. Even the car wasn’t damaged. But for that split second it was a nightmare, as we watched the car wreck, front row seats but helpless to do anything about it. That’s the image forever imprinted on my mind.

Most of us may have felt something similar that morning ten years ago, September 11, 2001, especially when World Trade Center towers collapsed. But I have that feeling these days, too, in thinking about a lot of things in our world. We watch, helpless it seems, as so much spins out of control. I’m reminded of that car wreck all those many years ago when these scary, even horrific things happen, with more on the way. Continue reading

Reflecting on September 11, 2001—Then and now

Ted Grimsrud—September 8, 2011

It just so happened that I was scheduled to preach at Shalom Mennonite Congregation in Harrisonburg, VA, the Sunday after the September 11, 2001 incidents. I was grateful for the challenge of trying to put into words some of what I was feeling and thinking during that very intense time. I ended up submitting an edited version of the sermon to The Mennonite and it was published a few weeks later.

Now, ten years later as I reread that article, I find myself wanting to reiterate what I wrote back then—the call for people of goodwill to continue to grieve the loss of life and other destruction from that terrible moment and to continue to critique the American way of Empire that helped precipitate those incidents.

Certainly, the circle of grief-worthy events directly related to 9-11 has continued to expand greatly as the United States responded to the terrible violence of 9-11 with wave after wave of even more terrible violence in Afghanistan (and Iraq). Few people would have imagined in 2001 that these waves of violence would still be growing an entire decade later.

So, now, even more than was the case ten years ago (if that is possible), critique is necessary. The American way of Empire has dragged our nation into an ever-deepening pit of ruin. Continue reading