This simple verse is the source of major angst among Christians. It has led some, such as Anabaptists and Friends (Quakers), to proclaim that a peaceful response to any and all provocations is exactly what Jesus ordered.
If one simply read Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” it would be hard to argue with this. But, as with most other things biblical, one can’t simply take a single verse and make it the totality of your Christianity.
The central problem with “love your enemies?” It makes God’s love, which Jesus instructed us to emulate, overly simple and, actually, childish. God is not a child, and we mustn’t impugn simplistic concepts to His love. A Christian may love his enemies, and still kill those who attempt to murder him.
A Christian may not murder, but he may kill in a just cause. Protecting the defenseless is always a just cause, and, as they say, the devil is in the details. I don’t and won’t address the war in Iraq; too much ink has been spilled on whether this is a “just war.” My point, rather, concerns a global war that has been waged against Christians, and others who are not Muslim, for over 1,300 years.
Put at its simplest, Islam is a religion of conquest; of conquest not by persuasion or conscience, but by the sword. From the very beginning, and continuing to this very moment. They have, in fact, waged war against us. A global war. And this is a war that we need to engage on a global basis but seem to have left the field.
Sure, we brag about our forces in Afghanistan, and attempt to avert our gaze from the cockup that is the Bush legacy in Iraq. Every day, there is an atrocity, actual, or planned, by some Muslim group or another. The (thankfully) foiled plot by some Muslims to create havoc at JFK airport is but the latest incident. There will be more.
However, the war against militant Islam is only partly fought with armed forces. It is also a war of the spirit. Or, should I say, a war of the Spirit. As in Holy Spirit. Yes, we Christians must love our Muslim brothers and sisters, but must also not confuse love with surrender. We must, rather, love as God would love: with correction as needed to protect the defenseless. With correction as needed to protect our God-given right to worship the Son.
As Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10).