Ender’s Game: Loving the Enemy

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him”

*Spoilers alert

endersgameEnder is no typical teenager. He has been selected to save the world from a deadly race of aliens. We journey with him as he trains, trying to get the balance between anger and compassion.

When we reach the film’s end, we find Ender in a computer simulator, practising war tactics in various complicated scenarios. When his graduation finally arrives, he enters his last simulation and if he wins this, then he can go out to war for real.

Everything goes well. In fact he doesn’t just beat his enemy, he totally annihilates them – destroying a planet of aliens which seem to consist of the entire species – now every last one of them is up in smoke. Earth won.

There is silence. Then applause. Victory over the enemy is accomplished! Ender won the game.

And yet we discover that this was no simulation. This was in fact the real war and it dawns on Ender that he has totally wiped out an entire civilisation. What bothers him, it seems, is that he didn’t get a chance to understand them better. He wanted to dialogue with them, find out what makes them tick, find out why they came to earth in the first place and give them a chance. But he can’t do that. He had no chance to love his enemy.

It was quite a striking ending, normally as a viewer we would be satisfied with a victory like this. The enemy is crushed! However Enders reaction makes us feel uncomfortable. We suddenly feel that perhaps these aliens were never the enemy in the first place, but actually we were the enemy all along.

How we deal with our enemies illustrates something of our heart.

Jesus says: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

ender-wigginEnder found that the heart of this project was all about annihilation and winning a game, being in victory and being the strongest. And Ender didn’t like that, he saw the corrupt nature of the heart and felt tricked in following their rules. What if he had a chance to talk to the aliens? To understand them? Perhaps he would have loved them?

Jesus deals with his enemies in a startling way.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were still enemies, hating God, waging war against him. He stooped down and loved us, died for us and brought peace. Jesus treats his enemies with great love, beckoning them to come to him for refuge, offering them time and time again a chance for peace.

How we treat our enemies shows the inner workings of our hearts.

Perhaps the people we think who are our enemies, are actually not. Perhaps we need time to understand them, get to know them, find out what makes their heart tick and perhaps we will come to love them. Like Jesus, who understands our inner most being, who saw our hatred towards him and yet he still loved us, loved us to the point of death.

Those people out there that we may class as enemies, those who think differently to us, belong to a different tribe, have a different lifestyle are all enemies of Christ. Just like you and me. Yet Christ is filled with compassion towards them, as he does towards us.

Suddenly we find ourselves side by side with our enemies, feeling a little uncomfortable because we have realised that perhaps we are also the enemy.

And yet Christ is not tricked like Ender, he doesn’t annihilate us. Instead he understand us, loves us and calls us to him for salvation.

5 things I learnt from The Cross of Christ

crossofchristI have just recently finished John Stott’s epic book “The Cross of Christ”. I remember receiving this book as a gift during relay and I spent some time in various chapters studying it and chewing on it. But I hadn’t actually read the whole thing from start to finish, so I embarked to do so this year.

Reading this book gave me a fresh reminder of the cross and what Christ had done on the cross. I want to share with you 5 things that I learnt or was reminded of from this book.

1. Christianity is nothing without the cross.

It is the lamb that is slain on the throne. The cross is the center of history and had been on the mind of Christ from the start. It is a stumbling block and most offensive to some people and to others it is a joy and the heart beat of Christianity.

Without the cross there could be no atonement, forgiveness of sins, evil defeated, salvation for sinners, suffering where Christ can sympathise with all our sufferings..and many more things that took place on the cross.

2. The cross impacts every sphere of our Christian living.

Why? John Stott says the cross is the:

ground of our justification (he has redeemed us from the curse),
the means for our sanctification (we have been crucified with him, the world to us and us to the world),
the subject of our witness (we are to placard Christ Crucified publicly before people’s eyes),
the object of our boasting (God forbid that we should boast in anything else!!)

3. We are enemies of the cross if it is not central to our Christian living

If the cross is not central to our Christian living then we are enemies of the cross and to be an enemy means:

self-righteousness (instead of looking to the cross for justification)
self-indulgence (Instead of taking up the cross to follow Christ)
self-advertisement (Instead of preaching Christ crucified)
self-glorification (Instead of glorying in the cross)

How true that is in my own life!

4. Love was the motivation of the cross

Reading this book reminded me afresh of the love of Christ for us. To take human flesh and walk among this earth in order to go to the cross for my sin and shame, to take on the punishment I deserved in order that I might be reconciled to the Father. It shows a great and deep love that I cannot truly understand.

If we were ever in doubt about whether God loves us, we need to look no further than to the cross – his love demonstrated for us there.

5. I need to be reminded of the cross daily

I forget so easily the triumph, victory, pain, weakness and sacrifice of the cross. I too easily become an enemy of the cross and become self-righteous and self-indulgent. I need to be reminded of the Gospel, what Christ has done on the cross.

I need to be reminded of this daily and I know my friends do too as we struggle through this life and our hearts become deceived and caught up in various things, we need to bring each other back to the cross.

If you have not read this book, I would recommend you do so. Don’t be put off by the size of the book, but instead take your time over it and enjoy the refreshing water that comes from it. Stott turns our eyes away from ourselves and what we must do, and places our gaze on Christ and what he has done. Wonderful.

What Disney Shows Us

disney-princess-merida-disney-princessI grew up on Disney. The moving drawings, the damsel in distress, the out of the blue songs that make me cringe and yet I know all the words. A world of dragons,  talking animals, carpet rides, evil step mums, ugly sisters, useless fathers, pretty stick thin women in chains and heroic men on a white shiny white horse with a sword which may or may not be able to sing…

I really like Disney. I think they make good (predictable) stories. It is true that they pump out the stereotype of a princess who is useless but has perfect hair and can sing to birds which may or may not blow up, who are deeply unhappy and alone without a man to complete her. She then unfortunately gets into a tangle and gets captured and the only way to be saved is through a man who can probably sing and who goes on countless adventures and ends up being her true love and then they live happily ever after. 

On the surface the classic Disney cliché of prince and princess gives out a few bad vibes like:

  • Women are only truly happy and complete when they meet their man (who may or may not be able to sing). 
  • Women are always the damsels in distress… men almost never get captured and need saving.
  • Men do the saving, they have the adventures. The women are stuck inside four walls.
  • Women can sing to animals and while the men are away the animals do all the work while the woman reads Hello magazine..
  • The woman is the princess and wears pretty dresses, eats only celery or dust to maintain her hour-glass figure. 
  • The men are handsome, unless you are a beast… in which case you are very hairy. 
  • There is nearly always a useless father… 
  • There is nearly always an evil woman or witch
  • There is nearly always a dim woman in a pretty dress that thinks animals can talk to her
  • There is nearly always a man on a horse who over time will turn into a useless father or a frog.
  • A Kiss will solve everyone’s problem.
  • Never eat fruit in a Disney movie…

Here is the thing, although some of this lurks in our Disney movies and it doesn’t always give out the best image or vibes of what it is to be a man or a woman (Although I think it is slowly changing like in Brave), it does however get something right.

The need for salvation.

It is easy to get frustrated at the “fruit-eating, singing to a flower” woman being all perfect and in distress and for the man to carry her away into the sunset after a great adventure. However it is kinda true.

The need for a saviour is imprinted in our narratives. Our stories burst at the seams with the need for salvation, a rescuer and a hero. Our Superman’s, Ironmans, Harry Potters and Lord of the Rings cry out for a hero to save us.

superman

In the film Superman Returns, Superman says:

“You wrote that the world doesn’t need a saviour, but every day I hear people crying for one.”

The world is crying out for one. Our culture reflects that. Our Disney movies reflect that. And it’s not just women who need a saviour, but its the men as well. And the true saviour doesn’t just have a great adventure and jumps on his horse. He actually dies and gives up everything for his bride.

He is a hero that sacrifices.

Disney may get some things wrong. But it gets one huge thing right. It echoes a story of a bride who is trapped and in trouble and the man who is the King dies for her, is risen to life, carries her, speaks tenderly to her and saves her. 

When we have kids and they watch Disney movies, I hope I can discuss this with them. I hope I can dispel some of the myths that Disney leaks out about men and women. But I hope I can draw them into the true story that Disney echoes. We are all, male and female in need of a saviour. And this saviour Jesus Christ, is far better than what Disney portrays their hero as. And we are in way more trouble then what the princess is in. And its going to take more than a kiss to save us. It’s going to need blood.

And yes there will be a Happy Ever After.

The Spirit of Sonship

redeemedThe apostle Paul in the letter to the Galatians bangs the same drum. He bangs it over and over again. And it’s a worthy drum to do so. The drum is the Gospel. The drum is the good news of Jesus Christ.

The Galatians are being wooed by other lovers and they are being tempted to move away from Christ, they are being tempted that rules and law are appealing. It’s not that they are just not hitting the right points on the theology counter – Its more than  just misunderstanding what the Gospel means. In fact its far worse, Paul says that:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel”
(Galatians 1:6 ESV)

They have misunderstood who the Father is. The Galatians are deserting the Father by not trusting in His son. They are moving away from their first love, they believe that the blood of Christ isn’t enough for them and that they need to add to what Christ has done. They don’t understand how much the Father loves them and they have forgotten their true identity.

In Galatians 4 Paul gives a wonderful illustrations to woo them back to Christ. The illustration is that of the Trinity. He reminds them that their identity is wrapped up in who God is and God is a Tri-Unity, a loving relationship of 3 persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He shows how the Father sends his Son, who dies and redeems and wins us back. Through Jesus we are adopted and the Father sends his Spirit into our hearts and he cries “Abba Father” on our behalf. So that the Father looks at us he sees his son and when the father turns his ear to us he hears his son crying out to him. Adopted. We are his sons, we are heirs to the promise.

No wonder Paul calls it foolish to think that we can add anything to this. To think that our efforts and rules could add to this adoption is rather missing the point. Paul links this up and reminds them that if they were to move away from this good news and try to add to it then they are just going to enslave themselves. They are going to go back to slavery – they are going to act like a child of the slave woman Hagar instead of acting like who they truly are which is a child of the free woman Sarah.

We often feel like we know this. We hear it so often that it becomes old news rather than good news. But lets remind our hearts again.

To be adopted by the Father through his Son Jesus is the most wonderful, astounding and beautiful news we can ever have. To think that we would enslave ourselves to rules and laws or to think that we can protect our hearts from sin by rules and laws would be utter foolishness. Instead Paul draws us out from that way of thinking and he draws our gaze back to Christ.

Come and look at Him. Come and gaze on his beauty. You can do this because you are free, because you are adopted and no longer a slave to rules or sin. Christ has set you free. So then call upon your Father in Heaven, call upon him for all your needs. Don’t look within you nor build up a protection of rules around you because when you break those rules you will feel guilty and the lies will seep in that will say “The Father is disappointed in you” or “The Father doesn’t love you”… lies lies lies.

If you feel like that, if you feel like a failure, if you feel like your sinning again and again, if you feel weak and you feel burdened under the weight of rules and expectations than I say to you: Come to the Father. Come to Him and find your comfort. Come and gaze at His Son, come and find refuge in Him. You have the Spirit of Sonship dwelling in you and you are free… so come and enjoy your heavenly Father who loves you very much. To end, Spurgeon says:

Go home, my Brothers and Sisters, and live in the spirit of sonship! Wake up in the morning and let your first thought be, “My Father, my Father, be with me this day.” Go out into business (lectures) and when things perplex you (things are hard), let this be your resort—“My Father, help me in this hour of need.” When you go to your home and meet with domestic anxieties, let your cry be, “Help me, my Father.”

When alone, you are not alone because the Father is with you! And in the midst of the crowd you are not in danger, because the Father, Himself, loves you! What a blessed word is that—“The Father Himself loves you”! Go and live as His children!”

Bring me to Christ

cold-heartWe enter the new year carrying our resolutions under our arms. This year will be better. This year I will  be better. I want a new me – slender body, social butterfly, intellectual power that will knock your socks off. The new me will be able to handle criticism and flourish in social situations. The new me will be able to quote Nietzsche and be able to pronounce his name correctly. This year will ultimately be about me. I have plans all wrapped up in my resolutions – I know the books I need to read, the people I need to contact, the strengths I need to cultivate, the serving that needs to be done. I have a tick list to make myself better and achieve ultimate Christian status. I will give to God more than I have before. I will strive, conquer, achieve. Strength will be my battle armour.

Goodness. How exhausting. To be honest I am not one for resolutions, I don’t like the idea of setting myself up to fail. Call me a half empty glass, but honestly, slender bodies, social prowess, intellect and striving to give back to God all that I have isn’t going to fulfill me. It isn’t going to bring me everlasting joy. The reason I think they are going to make me happy or a better Christian is because I believe the lie that Jesus isn’t enough. This lie seeps in and dulls my heart. The affections of my heart are dull.

Paul says to the Corinthians in 2Cor6v12 – “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections”. Our own affections stop us and it’s not because they are too passionate, but they are as CS Lewis says –

““It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us…”

Our passions and desires are dull and weak. We easily go after broken cisterns in search of something that will fulfill us, but we find dust and dirt instead of a fountain of living water.

Its funny, we often say that we know the Gospel, but yet we easily forget Christ. If we didn’t forget Christ so easily it would be evident in the affections of our hearts. I can tell you that my heart is often cold and it needs to be awaken. The danger for us is that often we try to awaken it with the whip of the law, a list of things to do, resolutions to keep, steps to guide us. As this whips us into action, we can only move around slowly like cold muscles trying to work out and all too soon they rip and tear.

What the Christian heart needs then is simple: It needs Christ. Bring me to him. He is my great physician, my wonderful healer. He is the fire that warms my heart and sets it ablaze. Bring me to him and not to a list of things to do. Tell me of Christ and not law. Tell me of Christ and not a step by step guide on how to live as a Christian. For if my heart is aflame with the love of Christ and my very being filled with the Spirit of Christ then I will walk in step with His spirit.

Please speak of Christ to me. Bring me to him. Not just once but every time I see you or hear you. I beg you because he is my daily bread and my living water. He is the one I need above all things. And I know you need him too. So then let me bring you to him. Let me bring you to your saviour and King. Are you weary? Brokenhearted? Then come to him who gives you strength and binds the broken heart. Are you downcast and in darkness? Then come to him who has felt your downcast and has suffered it but who brings light in the darkness. Do you feel ashamed? Come to him who takes your shame and puts it to death.

O Preacher bring me to Christ. Bring all of us to Christ. Preach of him and only him. We need it or we may go out cold.

Christianity ought to touch the whole of Life…

“I would say if Christianity is truth, it ought to touch on the whole life” – Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer is a bit of a hero of mine, I read his biography a while back and was captivated by his attitude to Christianity, apologetics and serving. To my great delight while in Oxford I met a man named Joe who knew and worked with Francis Schaeffer in Switzerland. I was quite excited to hear stories and hear his wisdom. It was truly remarkable!

But what Schaeffer is saying here is so true. He is sure that if Christianity is true then we cannot box it or put it into a category and leave it untouched. We are introduced with Schaeffer the reality of Christianity that penetrates his life – the kind that digs deep at our soul and gets under our skin. If Jesus is real, if we not only believe but follow and thus a disciple then it ought to touch our whole life. Not just part of it.

Can we perhaps see the ripples of Christ in our life already? You will find that you cannot hold light and darkness together, you cannot hold truth and lies together. You cannot hold Christ as Lord and you as Lord in the same hand. One must go. Either you live for yourself and walk on the path of death or you embrace Christ and lose yourself and find that you are given eternal life. If this is true – then should it not affect every spectrum, inch, moment, thought, action of your life and my life?

I have been thinking how this affects me everyday. Perhaps it should touch how I watch TV, movies or read books. How I talk to people or don’t talk to people, how I love others, how I see the world, How I see death and life, church and friendship. How I see what is moral or what the world believes to be true. How I view white lies, how I view myself, how I judge others and how I show the love of Christ to others…

Christianity is not just for Sundays, but it’s for the Monday morning and the evening in the pub with workmates and the sitting in front of the TV and the walk to church and the listening to friends and the reading of the newspaper and sitting on the train and the love for people from different countries, religions and worldviews. It’s for the days that have rain or humid heat, the time we spend eating or the time we spend daydreaming. It’s when we read our bible or when we read science fiction, it’s when we listen to rock music or dance to the tango… “it ought to touch the whole of life”.

Bruised Reed – Christ our Physician

So we have been looking at what a bruised reed is and that as we go through a Psalm 42 season we can know that our Father lavishes his love on us through his son and has a purpose for the season we are in.

But as we go through this season, often our first thought isn’t to run to Christ but to go to everything else, only to find that it wont ever satisfy. But what fear do we have when we think of running to Christ?

What do we think Christ will do to us Christians that feel bruised and broken? Will he cast us away? Will he tell us to get over ourselves? Will he judge us and call us pathetic? Thankfully not.

Sibbes shows how Christ is full of mercy –

“Physicians, though they put their patients to much pain, will not destroy nature, but raise it up by degrees. Surgeons will lance and cut, but not dismember. A mother who has a sick and self willed child will not therefore cast it away. And shall there be more mercy in the stream than in the spring? Shall we think there is more mercy in ourselves than in God, who plants the affection of mercy in us?”

This gives me most comfort of all, that Christ has much more mercy then I do, yet sometimes I think Christ will judge me more harshly. But when we think of Christ and the names he gives himself, we cannot escape how tender he is towards those that mourn and come to him with a humble heart.

Sibbes continues –

“But for further declaration of Christ’s mercy to all bruised reeds, consider the comfortable relationships he has taken upon himself of husband, shepherd and brother, which he will discharge to the utmost. Shall others by his grace fulfill what he calls them unto, and not he who, out of his love, has taken upon him these relationships, so thoroughly founded upon his Father’s assignment, and his own voluntary undertaking?”

Christ is full of tender mercy. I think Sibbes wants to encourage us to come to Christ on our knees and find comfort in Him and not be afraid. This picture of Christ as a Shepard and husband is full of love and kindness and the scriptures continue to remind us of how Christ invites us to come to Him when we are in times of need –

” Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

“He is a physician good at all diseases, especially at the binding up of a broken heart.” – Page 9

Christ binds our broken heart, he is our great physician. We have no fear to come to him – but we must come to him because he is our life-giver, open armed and ready to give great comfort to you.