Note from CM: It is hard to do justice to a book as massive as Greg Boyd’s The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Volumes 1 & 2. We’ve had several days of discussing certain aspects of it, and yesterday I stated my main objection to his thesis. But as I said, my disagreements does not signal a lack of appreciation this book. I think it’s masterful and filled with a lot of good thinking and marvelous writing. This is rich, profound theological writing, centered on Christ, and I commend it wholeheartedly.
I think it only fair that I give Greg Boyd the final word by quoting a passage from the book today. Of the many, many that I could choose from, I’d like to highlight a practical, pastoral excerpt. This passage reminds us that one of the primary ways Jesus and the apostles defined a Jesus-shaped life was by making reference to the cross and our Lord’s self-sacrificial love for even his enemies.
And, as Pastor Boyd says, they weren’t just talking about how we think and feel.
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In the previous chapter, we discussed Augustine’s subjective definition of love that enabled him, and multitudes of others that followed him, to claim that for God as well as God’s people, loving enemies does not necessarily rule out torturing and killing them. I now want to demonstrate that among the problems this definition faces is the fact that Jesus explicitly ruled it out. For Jesus commanded us not merely to love our enemies as an inner disposition, but to express this love by how we actually treat them. The love that Jesus teaches and models is both “active and nonviolent.”
We are specifically instructed to “bless,” “pray for,” “do good” to, “be merciful” toward, and to “lend to” our enemies “without expecting to get anything back” (Matt 5:44-45; Luke 6:28-29, 35). These are not inner dispositions, they are concrete behaviors. So too, as we saw in chapter 2, we are taught to disobey the OT’s command to exact just retribution and to instead “not resist (antistemi) an evil doer” and to turn the other cheek when struck (Matt 5:38-39). Moreover, “if anyone wants to sue [us] and take [our] shirt,” we are to “hand over [our] coat as well (Matt 5:40.” And if a Roman soldier commanded a Jew to carry his equipment “one mile,” as the law at the time allowed, Jesus told them to voluntarily “go with them two miles” (Matt 5:41). These are not merely instructions about how we should think or feel in response to enemies; they are instructions on how we are to actually behave in response to the hostile behavior of enemies. Peter Wick captures the ramifications of self-sacrificial love in the Sermon on the Mount while reflecting the thematic centrality of the cross when he notes that Jesus’s interpretation of the Torah in this sermon “aims at hearing the commandment of love in every other commandment and the whole Torah.” And he continues:
The aim is to overcome every type of violence and ultimately every force by love. …Love does not come easy and it is obviously dangerous. It was love that led Jesus to the cross. …Jesus in his own person fulfilled the Sermon on the Mount on the cross, but he handed over its message also explicitly to his disciples and the people (cf. Mat 5:1-2; 7:28-29), in order that they do it and try to imitate his example.
…however we interpret passages in which some see Jesus speaking or acting in unloving or even violent ways, I submit that they cannot be used to qualify the “enemies” Jesus instructs us to love, for Jesus’s teaching is specifically intended to rule out any exceptions. Jesus commands followers to demonstrate that they are “children of your Father in heaven” by reflecting the Father’s “perfect” love (Matt 5:45, 48). The nature of this love, Jesus teaches is reflected in the fact that the Father “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45). This love, in other words, is “perfect” precisely because it is indiscriminate — like the sun shining and the rain falling.
Jesus is thus revealing that the Father’s love is no more conditioned by the relative merits or circumstances of those it is directed toward than the sunshine and rain are conditioned by the relative merits of those they fall upon. The sun shines and the rain falls on everyone simply because it is in the God-created nature of the sun and rain to do so. So too, Jesus is teaching, the Father’s love is toward everyone simply because it is the Father’s nature to love like this. The children of the Father are thus instructed to love indiscriminately simply because only when we love like the sun shines and like the rain falls do we reflect the “perfect” character of our Father and thereby demonstrate that we are “children of the Father in heaven.”
• CWG I, 207-211