I got the call on Christmas Eve. My older brother rang in on my cell phone and I assumed he just wanted to wish me an early merry Christmas. Instead he proceeded to tell me that he was gay. Now I want you to know this post is not all about homosexuality, but I hope my brother may serve as an example of a P.O.W, because it is about rescuing and reclaiming the captives, the prisoners of war.
A few months later he came for a visit. We had the opportunity to talk for a bit and he began to tell me about the group that has accepted him; the gay community, or at least some subculture with ties to that circle. We took a ride to visit our uncle and as I drove, he talked. He told me about never being accepted as a child. He said that now he is accepted. He has a boyfriend, and other friends who he are willing to accept him unconditionally. This honestly made me quite pissed at the church. After all, it’s our job to make people feel accepted unconditionally and loved. How is it that we can put the words of Jesus, “love people as we love ourselves,” in to action? Can we be of any help to anyone if we are not willing to first accept them and let them know that they are truly loved?
What my brother basically told me was that no one was willing to try to come and meet him where he was. No one was willing to try and understand him. No one was willing to enter into that kind of dangerous territory to take the risk of befriending a captive. I admit, I am a large part of the problem. For years I have not loved him like Jesus loves me.
I have always read Isaiah 61 with the understanding that captives and prisoners simply meant those in jail, but these days I see it more as being hostages, prisoners of war, held by our enemy in his attempt to have some kind of leverage at the eternal bargaining table with Almighty God. Maybe it could read, to proclaim freedom to the hostages and release from the prison camp for the P.O.W.’s.
If that understanding is true then that means we have to cross enemy lines in order to set the captives free. Jesus knew that. After all He did that very thing when He left the safety of His throne in heaven, for the treachery of a sinful earth, to enter the current domain of the evil one. I have heard people make that argument that we shouldn’t go to the prostitutes and the like because they always came to Jesus. It seems to me that Jesus crossed the greatest of all expanses to go to them and to come to me. I am reminded of John 1, it says God became man and moved in to the neighborhood (to paraphrase The Message). That’s right he moved into the neighborhood, into the brothel complexes in India’s ghettos, into the filthy shanty towns of Haiti, into the red light district of Amsterdam, into the refugee camps of Northern Africa, into the “gay village” of the Castro district in San Francisco, and into the middle class havens of America’s suburbs.
I love a song we used to sing at the church where I was once a youth minister. The lyrics say “I went to the enemy’s camp and I took back what he stole from me.” I loved it then and I love it now, but it recently hit me what a task that is. Can you imagine walking across the enemy lines in Iraq? That’s what it’s like when you choose to follow Jesus. You must live a life where you take the chance of crossing through the DMZ to reach the captives on the other side.
The parable of the talents illustrates this idea as well as any I know of. We must be willing to gamble with God’s money as it were. We must take chances, live lives of reckless abandon, and bring the light of God into the darkness that is the very camp of the enemy. Don’t get me wrong, the enemy is not any person or group, no matter how different their understanding of morality is from our own; the enemy is the one known as satan, the accuser.
Jesus said, “As I have loved you so you must love one another.” He loved us enough to move into our neighborhood, break into the prison camp in which our enemy held us captive, and give up His life when the time came, so that we could break free from the chains that held us in bondage. If that is what He did to demonstrate His love for us, then what are we willing to do to fulfill His command to love one another in the same way?