Love Thy Enemy

ruth ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — here in her chambers during a 2019 interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg — died on Friday at the age of 87.
Shuran Huang/NPR

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. –Matthew 5:43-48 (NASB)

I’m sure most people reading this know by now that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Baden Ginsburg is dead. What you probably also know, if you follow social media, is that this event has erupted into a major emotional storm, depending on your politic, and as it turns out, religious views.

Here’s what I said on Facebook after I ran head first into one:

Oh wow. Someone, purportedly a Christian, posted a meme (I won’t repeat it here) celebrating the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I pointed out why disagreeing with her legal opinions didn’t mean we should have wanted her to die, and also pointed out how even the Almighty did not celebrate the death of the Egyptians after Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea. I woke up this morning and saw many notices from that conversation basically condemning both me and Ginsburg, including a pretty rough statement from another supposed Christian on how he would defile Ginsburg’s grave by urinating on it. This is the difference between studying the Bible and pondering its wisdom vs. reading it and then letting some less than kind or informed religious leader tell you what it all means. Please do not paint all believers with the same broad brush. We aren’t all the same, and some of us are pretty far apart from others.

What prompt my response? This image, well, the video it represents:

Screenshot from Facebook

I was the first to reply to this person who is my “friend” on Facebook:

[All names and other identifiers have been removed from these comments except for my name]

James Pyles: No, I won’t do it and this is why. After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and the Egyptians drowned, according to Jewish legend, God refused to let even the angels celebrate. He said “they are my children, too.” While I may have disagreed with Ginsburg on a good many things, I will not celebrate her death (Yasser Arafat’s yes, but that’s a completely different story). She was and is a child of God and someday we will all have to stand before our Judge. I’m no better than the next person.

The author responded to me, and then many others did as well:

M: James Pyles I am no better than than the next person, and I am worse than many. But I am glad the protector of Roe V. Wade can no longer bring about millions and tens of millions of deaths through abortion.

James Pyles I understand what you’re staying, but moral decisions and consequences are complicated and painful. You know this better than most. No matter what she said and believed, if I am to consider myself even a poor disciple of Jesus, then I cannot do what I know he wouldn’t.

LJ: James Pyles Exodus 15 — a song of Moses giving glory to God for the drowning of the Egyptian army. Good is also a judge.

T: If she was not in Christ, she was not God’s child.

Je: Then let us pray that somehow she has been given grace, even while we rejoice that she can no longer do harm.

James Pyles I have long since stopped presuming to know exactly how God will judge. I have my own life in my hands and my own sins. God will take care of the rest. I need to be accountable to what I have done and who I am. I don’t have time to pull a splinter out of someone else’s eye when I’ve got a log in mine.

Another M: “If she was not in Christ, she was not God’s child.”

S: James Pyles He kicked the moneychangers out of the Temple.
Look. She did much evil, and was a blatantly racist eugenics (“some groups shouldn’t have kids”). Her decisions in cases to try and her lack of support for involuntary treatment of the mentall…See More

B: James Pyles
I think this is M’s page. She has a right to her interpretation of whats just & saying something again will not move her will – everyday she trys to save lives Everyone speaking well of RBG should have held her accountable while living
She never cared about any babies of God

GF: James Pyles then go do you elsewhere. You’re not anyone’s moral teacher and I for one would dance on the witch’s grave before relieving myself on it.

That last comment is when I decided to stop reading. Oh, I’ve truncated the list for reading time, plus there’s only so much of this I want to take.

fb witch
Screenshot from Facebook

It’s embarrassing as a believer to have to defend against such vitriol, especially on social media where the many atheists liken Christians to everything that is evil. When we behave down to the lowest levels of those expectations, then how do we uphold the cause of Christ?

Having said all that, I’ve been just as guilty as anyone else as mixing up my faith with my politics. Oh, but it gets worse.

It seems that while many Christians are celebrating Ginsburg’s death with more than just a little antisemitism (she couldn’t be a child of God because she wasn’t a Christian), not too many years ago, the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia elicited a tremendous amount of “unkindness” from those who opposed him politically, probably the same people who mourn Ginsburg today.

Oh, people even make fun of that too:

Screenshot of a Facebook meme

But as disciples of King Messiah, I mean if we really are disciples, shouldn’t we live that out? How else will anyone really believe we live the lives we lecture and sermonize about? They’re the same folks who think we believe this

Screenshot of a Facebook meme

The horrible thing is that they may be right, at least about some, perhaps a great many of us.

What do you think? More importantly, what do you believe and how do you live that out?

For more, read about my friend Kat’s Mini Rant.


11 thoughts on “Love Thy Enemy”

  1. Well said. And thank you for the link back, I am honored that my little ramblings are considered worthy of sharing.

    As you may have guessed, we’re talking about the same Fb post. I was left dumbfounded by people that seemed to be saying “do not rejoice”, “love thy enemy”, “pray for them” didn’t apply. As I said in the comments on my page, I feel sorry for the gentleman who was arguing with me. The only way that “hate” should be in our vocabulary is in the context of “hate the sin, not the sinner”.

  2. I totally understand. Am going dark on FB for a season as of today. The sermon this AM, in a series about Biblical characters who God used in a big way, was about Nehemiah and how when he heard about the walls of Jerusalem, he wept, fasted and prayed from Kislev until Nisan …. that’s a pretty long time. I need to be spending that time, instead of squeezing Him in, and entirely too much on FB. Need to be washed with the Word. How’s this for a ministry name: Sword and Trowel (kinda like Harp and Bowl)? Or Sword, Trowel, and Trumpet?

    Thought it was interesting that RBG died on the 18th … yod plus chet, 18, chai. I wonder if that was a comfort to her family. I wonder if she was aware that she was dying on Erev Yom Teruah.

  3. Many who claim to be “in Christ” clearly aren’t.

    By their fruit they are known.
    Hate and vitriol are not fruit of the Spirit.

    But they tend to be the fruit of political partisanship.

  4. David mourned the death of Saul, and his son Jonathan (2 Samuel 1), and wrote a lament for them, even though David would have every right to rejoice because of his being persecuted by Saul.

  5. Hello James.

    I mostly agree with your point of view here. I think you are sincere and honest in what you are saying and believe. I don’t think we should really “celebrate” anyone’s death. Even if a person believes in the death penalty and say Hitler were executed, I still wouldn’t celebrate. It would be more of a “tragic necessity” that the situation had come to such a point. My hope as a follower of Christ is that all would find redemption in God.

    I think some people don’t think she should be mourned as a saint because of her radical opinions on abortion. She believed that women could not be equal to men unless women had the right to an abortion. She completely tied up arguments about abortion with women’s equality, and the effects of such arguments are still seen today, as many on the left side of the aisle accuse all pro-life types of being sexist. Her legacy on abortion, if a person believes in the pro-life position, is awful, so say the least. No “safe, legal, and rare” with her.

    I do think, in a general sense, that she did fight for women’s equality in other areas. I think it was a historic achievement to have a female justice on the Supreme Court, and I am glad that many women find her own story inspiring for them. By all accounts, her private life was well-lived.

    Justice Scalia once wrote, ““I attack ideas, I don’t attack people – and some very good people have some very bad ideas.” I think such an approach is more productive when it comes to debating issues.

    Again, enjoyed this post you wrote. I don’t think it’s ever right to celebrate someone’s death. I think you can be happy that someone is no longer in power or no longer able to hurt others (like the Hitler example), but celebrating the death in and of itself is the wrong attitude, in my opinion.

  6. This is why I have distanced myself from so much of communal life. I’ve grown so tired of faith being co-opted by political parties. This sort of moral soapboxing by people who claim a certain title such as Christian, and then celebrate and revel in the death of another human being, is just so antithesis of the teachings of the Master. That is my 2 cents.

  7. I was sad with the death of Scalia and with the death of Ginsburg. (And, besides that, they were friends.) It is horrible of these Facebook people to call her a witch and say that she can’t be a child of God. And the man who you ended with is disgusting. There is also a likelihood that there was misinformation included in their more specific partisan accusations.

  8. I enjoyed your post. Whenever I hear of anyone’s death I almost always will mentally say a “Hail Mary”. Anyway, I’m mentally ill (bi-polar), have a Juris Doctorate, and I am partially conservative and liberal, much like the Bible. Few citizens are purely on the left or right. Mentally ill does not equate to stupid. A true Pro Life follower should be against abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide, etc. The verse of “Love your enemies” is also extremely difficult to follow. I’ve often prayed for President Trump, though I’ve never voted for him.

    1. It is not biblical to bundle abortion and capital punishment together. One is the taking of innocent life, which is murder, while the other can be (if justice is being done and the person is truly guilty of murder) the execution of justice according to biblical standards – he who sheds blood, by man his blood shall be shed. To speak of these two opposites as if they were the same is a distortion of truth.

      1. How on Earth do you love your enemies? If my enemy was in a womb or jail cell, I know I am called to love both. Peace be with you.

  9. Not too many years ago, I might have said, and thought, much of the wrongness that was in that Facebook thread. Fortunately, I grew some spiritually over those years and was able to pray for Ginsberg long before she died, as she fell under the ‘love your enemies and pray for them’ concept.

    That was not to my credit, but to the Ruach HaKodesh, who spent a good deal of time cleaning up how I thought about my enemies. He was far more persistent than my own nasty nature, and the erratic attention of the Adversary.

    It is a great addition to a quietness in the soul when you stop hating others and stop being angry at them for their actions. I don’t spend a lot of time praying for the political or judicial structure of this country, but when I do actually watch the news, I might be prompted to do so immediately, so that they might have some chance of losing all they have, hitting bottom, and finding out they actually want to reach out for something they have only given lip service to in the past.

    But despite Ginsburg’s prowess at Judicial matters, in the end, I prayed for those who loved her, for her friends, family, colleagues, because while I might have been less than fond of Ginsberg’s views and decisions, I know others were not. In my view, she caused a great deal of harm, but I do not know anything about how she became the person that thought and acted as she did.

    Abba does, and it is in Yeshua’s hands. I am glad to leave it there.

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