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RELGIOUS REFLECTIONS

People in gangs are not the enemy of Christians

Some in our community believe the word 'enemy' should be used to describe people who are members of gangs.

For all the professing Christians out there, what does it mean to be a "good" Christian? Who are our enemies? What should our response to our "enemies" be?

There are a multitude of verses that come to mind but I think we have to begin with what it means to be a "good" Christian. As Christians, we are supposed to be like Christ so it would seem logical that a good Christian is one who strives to be Christ-like.

So what does that mean?

For starters, we must be faithful and obedient, just as Jesus was faithful and obedient as He approached the cross on our behalf. Jesus sums up the faithful and obedient life of a Christian in The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). This can be reduced to six words: Love God. Love Neighbor. Make Disciples.

So a good Christian would be a Christian that loves God with everything he or she is and has, authentically loves their neighbor, and by doing the first two things accomplishes the third, making disciples.

So what about our "enemies"? Who are our enemies? Are people in gangs our enemies?

Interestingly enough, Jesus turns the whole enemy thing on its head in Matthew 5:43-46, where he says the following: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?"

Jesus says we are to LOVE our enemies. Just like we are to LOVE God and LOVE our neighbors. If we only love those who love us (or put another way, if we love only those who think, act or look like us) we are not being good Christians, in fact we are not being Christians at all.

Jesus takes the traditional notion of an enemy and completely disassembles it. We can't have people as our enemies because all people are created in the image of God. The very notion of loving our enemies, means they can't really be enemies in the way the world defines them. Jesus challenges us to rise above the standards of the world and adopt His standard...Love.

In Ephesians 6:12 it states: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

As Christians, we must always remember that we have only one TRUE enemy, Satan. People in gangs are not the enemy of Christians, they are people who need the redemptive love that comes only through and because of Jesus Christ.

There is a profound opportunity for those of us who call Jesus King to show love to prickly people that certainly do not deserve to be loved.

The gang issues we have in Yakima County are not a battle between "good" people versus "bad" people but instead a spiritual battle between good and evil...God and Satan.

Satan will use every tool at his disposal to usurp God's work here and as followers of Christ, we cannot afford to lose sight of this. We must rise up and do our part to love those the world does not love.

I'll end with a small disclaimer...this does not mean we shouldn't arrest people who break the law. It does mean that even though they broke the law, they are not our enemies. They are still our neighbors and we are commanded to love them in the same manner we are called to love God.

- Rev. Cameron Garcia is lead pastor at Sunnyside's Oasis

Community Church

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