Posted by: Tim Mannin
On the evening of September 21, 2014 an event will meet in the Civic Center Music Hall that has received quite a bit of attention. The Black Mass will meet in a different room than we meet in on Sunday mornings at the Civic Center and from what I understand it is going to be an event that encourages people to renounce all forms of religion and the existence of God (among other things). Clearly this is not something that resonates with the same purposes of what OKC Community is all about. Many have asked about my thoughts and how our church is responding. Hmmm…responding?
First, allow me to offer a thought about the Civic Center.
The Civic Center Music Hall is incredible venue and event center that has been gracious to us the entire time that we’ve met there. We cannot say enough about their professionalism and kindness in working with us. I make this statement because of some of the criticism that the Civic Center has received in allowing the Black Mass to hold their event within its walls. I believe the Civic Center is doing exactly what they should as an event center. We can never thank them enough for opening their doors to us as they have.
So the question remains…what should The Church—what should our church do in response to these types of public gatherings that promote evil, darkness, and essentially the death of God. For many of us the subjects of Satanism, evil, darkness, and spiritual warfare are foreign thoughts and it can be extremely intimidating. I believe it’s fair to say that most Christ followers can be fearful of the unfamiliar territory of darkness and evil. We’ll gladly claim the power of God over it, but we’ll also avoid the realities of it because it freaks us out. Psychology teaches us that a natural response to many of our fears and when we feel attacked or vulnerable is to respond by Flight or Fight. This means that we will either avoid the issue by distancing ourselves from it (flight) or we will fight it head on by trying to conquer our fear. The flight response in this particular issue results in disengaged Christians who would rather not talk about the subject. The fight response leads Christ followers to spew hatred, anger, and displeasure against those they deem as the perpetrators. In this instance of the Black Mass, Christ followers can easily fight by going to the media to try and petition against their right to have this gathering, or perhaps some may choose to fight by picketing the event on the steps of the Civic Center.
Is that how we ought to respond? Should we distance ourselves? Should we fight?
Jesus always had countercultural ways of responding.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Imagine hearing this for the first time. Imagine that you heard it and felt a deep conviction to take it to heart and not to see it as some pie in the sky, philosophical statement that doesn’t carry any real weight, but an actual heartfelt teaching that you are now supposed to live.
Let the person who hits you…hit you again.
Let the person who wants to take your shirt…let them also have your coat.
And for the person who forced you to carry their heavy load one mile…carry it another mile for the heck of it.
This teaching is a bit disturbing
Because it just doesn’t fit—it doesn’t gel with our understanding of reality, because those who go against us shouldn’t be allowed to do so without some form or repercussion, right? Besides, is this a suggestion that we should be pacifists and allow evil to go unchecked. No, of course not—sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to not allow evil to continue. This isn’t about tolerance. This passage simply means that in everything…we seek what is good for others.
This isn’t about allowing evil to continue and this isn’t about becoming a weak, soft pacifist. There are plenty of scriptures that speak boldly about defending the weak, seeking justice, and resisting evil. Jesus uses specific examples to help us understand that when evil is done to us personally…we have the opportunity to return it with grace, love, and goodness.
However, there is real evil in this world that we must take a stand against, such as; when children or women are enslaved and trafficked for sex or work purposes, when governments look to eradicate a people group based upon their religious beliefs or racial heritage, when people are abused, or when violence enters our schools—then we must seek justice. In a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. it's written, “The reason that he pursued equal rights for African Americans was not because he was angry or full of hatred, but because he wanted to free white people from the oppression of racism as well. Because racism wasn’t just an evil upon the victims of it – but the other victims are those who perpetrate it.” Shouldn’t we seek good for all…even those who are against us?
What is the right way to respond?
This passage is teaching us that we can’t respond to evil with evil.
When someone hates and is then hated back – it will be easy for them to continue to hate.
When someone hates and is then loved – it becomes more difficult for them to continue to hate.
Jesus is painting a picture that steps beyond the laws of justice and into the transformation of our hearts. What if the Church (capital C) didn’t take offense to those who reject us, but instead we looked for ways to go the extra mile and serve those who are against us? When we allow the words of the gospel to sink into our souls we may actually find ourselves becoming people who live the gospel!
As a church, we want to respond as people of love, who are consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the ways he responded to those who rejected him and even hated him. There are certainly injustices and evils in this world that demand our bold response, however the Black Mass is a group of people who may strongly reject what we believe and what we are about, but our response cannot be rejection or hatred, it must always be love and hope.
So we will speak gracefully and peacefully of the people at the Black Mass gathering.
We will pray for God’s love to abound in our city and among it’s people of varying belief.
We will do our job to be a people who shine like the stars of the universe—as we hold out the word of life in a dark world…because that is what we believe.