Who Is My Enemy? : Welcoming People the Church Rejects

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2002-02-01
  • Publisher: Zondervan
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Are You at War with Someone Jesus Loves?Many Christians are. We find it much easier to judge those outside the church than to love them. Yet Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. It is time we took on his attitude of servanthood--time to share not canned presentations, but our hearts and lives. Rich Nathan helps us understand how. Tackling five knotty current issues, he takes us inside the worldviews and street-level realities of postmodernists, New Agers, homosexuals, feminists, and liberals in order to better understand them, and to see beyond categories to real faces, real needs, and real hearts that long to be welcomed. Nathan reveals both the errors that we must challenge, and unexpected truths that will challenge us. Most important, he helps us to see individuals who long to experience the redemptive touch of Jesus--through us.

Table of Contents

Preface 9(11)
Acknowledgments 11(2)
Who Is My Enemy?
Part 1: Is the Postmodernist My Enemy?
The Hodgepodge on the Highway
Understanding the Postmodernist
Today's Diversity
Part 2: Is the Feminist My Enemy?
Was Jesus a Feminist?
What Should We Think of Feminists?
What Roles Are Open to Women in the Church?
Part 3: Is the Homosexual My Enemy?
Judgment, Tolerance, and the Spread of Gay Rights
Understanding the Homosexual
Part 4: Is the New Ager My Enemy?
A Closer Look at New Agers
Part 5: Is the Liberal My Enemy?
Practicing the Welcome of the Kingdom
Appendix: Listing of Web Links 265(3)
Notes 268(18)
Index 286


Who Is My Enemy?
My son is an excellent baseball player. Throughout his childhood and teenage years he played on all-star teams formed from several communities around our city. As you may know, sports activities for children have become far more than a casual recreational pursuit. For good athletes and their parents, participation in youth sports requires a level of devotion reminiscent of the Nuremberg rallies of 1936. One particular year, my son played eighty baseball games in three different states over a four-month period of time. As good parents, we dutifully went to most of his games.
Despite this busy schedule, I relished the opportunity as a pastor to spend that much time with fifteen other families, most of whom were unchurched. Watching my son play baseball got my wife and me outside of our church walls and deeply involved in the lives of other couples.
One day, as I was getting out of my car to watch yet another game, one of the fathers called to me in a loud whisper, “Rich, come over here. I want to show you something.” He and several other dads were standing at the back of a car, snickering like junior high boys.
“What’s up?” I asked.
He opened the trunk of his car to reveal a cooler full of beer. Excitedly, he said to me, “Hey, Rich, you want some?” I responded with a real note of appreciation in my voice, “Hey, thanks for the offer, but no, I think I’ll just go over and watch the game.” I walked toward the field, laughing and thinking to myself, Guys never outgrow adolescence, do they? But that wasn’t the end of the story. A Christian couple whose son was on the team, and who regularly sat about fifteen feet away from all of the other parents, got wind of the fact that beer had been brought to the parking lot at one of the games. (Apparently there was a Little League rule that no alcohol could be served within several hundred feet of a game in progress.) This couple petitioned the league to make a ruling on the “beer incident.” The league came down against it. They also demanded that the coach speak to all of the parents and ask them to sign a pledge that they would no longer bring beer anywhere near a game in the future. To this day I believe that this Christian couple was sincere in their religious convictions. They believed that what they were doing was ultimately serving the cause of Christ. The effect of their stand for righteousness, however, was devastating to our witness with the other parents. The unchurched parents were completely turned off to Christianity. For the remaining few weeks of the baseball season, my wife and I had to listen to them angrily denounce Christians. All of our work evaporated, because, in my opinion, a couple of Christians drew their boundary lines in the wrong place. THE GOOD SAMARITAN REVISITED
On one occasion Jesus told this story:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
—Luke 10:30–37
In the story that has become known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus helped his audience see that the category of neighbor, those whom they were called to love, was much wider than most of them would allow. Neighbors included those outside the covenant community and beyond the borders of the chosen people. To love God, according to Jesus, meant to love people with the wideness of the heart of God. In other words, loving God, at least in part, means redefining whom we include in our category of neighbor. The challenge facing the church in the twenty-first century is more basic than the question, “Who is my neighbor?” I believe the first question the church must answer correctly is, “Who is my enemy?” Many people believe that the world is our enemy.
Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you were not welcome? I was raised in a conservative Jewish family in New York City. My sister once invited her new Italian Catholic boyfriend, Dominic, over to our house early in their dating relationship. Throughout dinner my sister kept calling her boyfriend “Dom.” “Dom, could you pass the butter?” “Dom, what movie do you want to see tonight?” “Dom, could you get me a drink from the refrigerator?” My very traditional Jewish grandmother kept hearing my sister refer to her boyfriend as Dom. She innocently asked, “Don? Is that short for Donald?”
My sister responded, “It’s not Don, his name is Dom. Dom is short for Dominic.”
The blood drained from my grandmother’s face as she repeatedly asked in a high-pitched voice, “Dominic? Dominic? Dominic?” as she came to the stunning realization that her granddaughter was dating outside of the faith. “Dominic” is obviously not a Jewish name. For the rest of the evening, my grandmother refused to speak. It was obvious that, at least according to my grandmother, Dominic was an unwelcome guest.

Excerpted from Who Is My Enemy?: Welcoming People the Church Rejects by Rich Nathan
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