Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Wisdom Of Negotiating With Enemies

This post has been brewing in my head for exactly one week. Last Sunday I heard a snippet of an excellent sermon on the subject of talking to enemies on the way to Church. I have decided that the time is right to lay out my thoughts on this in response to this snippet from the thread about the Crusades;

"PC Myth: we can negotiate with these people"

First of all let me note that the PC myth (inasmuch as such generalizations are at all useful) on this subject is the exact opposite of what the author is asserting here. This topic of negotiating with enemies is indeed a hot topic that you hear about every day with the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. The word on the street and buzzing on the airwaves is that "we cannot negotiate with these people". The idea that we can or should negotiate with these people is seen as weakness and foolishness and folly. Conversely, the idea that "we cannot negotiate with these people" is in fact the PC ATTITUDE itself! Just reference the outrage directed at the Dixie Chicks or any other person or entity that has suggested otherwise- and then been shouted down as weak, foolish, America hating, terrorist cheering, yellow, egg- sucking "liberals" (worthless label).

The problem with the assertion that "we cannot negotiate with these people" is that that is exactly what we are taught to do throughout the preaching and teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. We are clearly led by them as follows:

Matthew 5:43-44 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)

Love for Enemies
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[b] and pray for those who persecute you,


A. Matthew 5:43 Lev. 19:18
B. Matthew 5:44 Some late manuscripts enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you

Romans 12:17-19 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"[a]says the Lord.


1. Romans 12:19 Deut. 32:35

Proverbs 16:7 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)

7 When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD,
he makes even his enemies live at peace with him

Luke 6:28-29 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)

28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.

Now, nowhere in the teachings of Jesus Christ (as in CHRISTAN) are we encouraged to adopt a "destroy them before they destroy us" attitude towards enemies or to write them off as unredeemable. Attempting to negotiate, talk to or find common ground our enemies bespeaks a deep seated inner peace, a spiritual maturity and wisdom that comes straight from Christ himself. We must NEVER be intimidated away from attempting to reach our enemies- either by the enemies themselves or especially by our "allies".
To suggest that attempting to negotiate or keep peace with our enemies is weak, foolish or subversive is an insult to Christ himself as well as his disciples the world over. It is an insult to peacemakers, idealists and wise men through the ages.
So, if this directive to abandon talking to our enemies and "kill them before they kill us" is not from God in Christ or the teachings of the New Testament...where then do you reckon it hails from?

I submit that those who hear the teachings of Christ and yet DO something else are perhaps admirers of Christ but not actual disciples or CHRISTians- doers of his word.

I recently wrote this also in the Crusades thread and it applies here as well:

"In another recent conversation I was challenged on my assertion that the whole "conservative/liberal" debate was pointless in terms of theology.
I had asserted that by the definition they were using Jesus would be considered a liberal- because he stood for other than conquering enemies by force, building empires, engaging in the self sustaining cycle of violence and revenge, the paradox of participating in evil to defeat evil or the "destroy them before they destroy us attitude"... all ideas that "Liberals" are accused of as examples of their weakness and lack of reason by so-called conservatives. They did not get this. So I reminded them that in Bible school if they attended, or else in purely historical terms they were most likely taught that perhaps the greatest reason the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah was that they were expecting a fiery, militaristic, leader- by- the- sword, to come and enforce their rightful rule over the world and to establish justice by force. That is clearly not what they got.
Instead they got a Messiah that preached peace, forgiveness, meekness, humbleness, self sacrifice, the renouncing of materialist values, the love of neighbors and enemies and the freedom from fear of earthly domination and death. So I asked then and ask now- if it was not in Christ's plan then to rule the world by strength and force- what makes it ok to transform his message to one of domination and the rule of the sword now- to attach his name to the cause and call it "conservatism" and associate it with the term Christian (as in followers of Christ)now? Oddly, the conversation went dormant right there.


James 1:19- 27 contains the essence of what I am saying here:

Listening and Doing

19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

All of this thinking brings to mind one more point and question. If the assertion "we cannot negotiate with these people" is true- then why in the wide, wide world of sports are "we" engaged in Iraq and trying to "establish freedom and democracy"? Is this not a logical paradox? Surely we cannot destroy the whole of our enemies in the Middle East, estimated at 300 MILLION out of the 1.2 Billion Muslims, without negotiating, talking to or compromising at all? Think about it. If we were to slay, say 100 million radical Islamics, don't you reckon the other 200 million of them will be actively recruiting from the population of 1.2 BILLION and that the numbers of radicals will more likely increase than decrease? Is this something a few hundred thousand military personnel will be able to accomplish without being eventually over-run by the sheer superior numbers of enemy? I reckon that the Jesus Way is ultimately the wiser approach to this whole dilemma- it saves souls even if it does not preserve our nationalistic "interests".


Starrider said...

From another post entitled Love Not the Domination System:

From Chapter 5 of Augsburger's "Dissident Discipleship"- "The Practice of Resolute Non-Violence":

sub heading: Love Walks

(There is a)...deeper understanding, a radical wisdom that violence begets violence, which begets violence again.

The common wisdom on the streets of L.A., like the wisdom on the streets of most cities, holds that violence is the ultimate reality. This is the conviction of people in democracies and dictatorships, in "developed' as well as 'undeveloped" countries. Here are its basic assumptions.

1. The world is a dangerous place.

2. Human beings are innately, intrinsically, violent.

3. The enemy is evil, more violent than we are, and beyond change.

4. We have only three alternatives: accomodate violence, avoid violence, or use violence ourselves- go along with it, run from it or do it before they do it.

5. The answer to violence is more violence. Evil is the bottom line, and violence its language, logic and ultimate reality.

6. Violence can solve our problems decisively. Power, domination, and extermination of evildoers will stop the spiral, prevent the violence from feeding on itself, extinguish resentment, intimidate those who would seek revenge, render retaliation against us impossible, allow us to dominate benevolently.

Those are the storm waves of violence , beating on counter-currents of equal violence. each side is willing for the other to die to insure its own safety.

Active non- violence steps out of the pitching boat and onto the pounding waves and does the supra-rational. It walks on the water and finds it firm. It summons its courage and reaches out to the enemy as a person. It thinks of the enemy's needs and fears (motivations); it acts in commitment alloyed with compassion. it chooses the surprising.

maxx8it said...

Starrider said...

The thinktank looks to be a pretty interesting site.

The subject this link discusses frequently comes up in the debate about Christians and warfare and is often, as noted, used by critics of Judeo-Christian beliefs.

I often hear references to this from my Southern Baptist friends to support their views justifying the "Christian" (quote marks denoting so-called) participation in redemptive violence. This justification is somewhat undermined by Jesus' words in Matthew Chapter 5 and the Sermon on the Mount as well as the other verses I listed below.

The position they take of this Old Testament model as justification fails to take into account the evolution of God's plan for humanity between the Old and New Testaments. Hence, the term NEW Testament as opposed to OT V2.0

I will have to re-read the link to digest it and try and determine what you might mean , if anything, by offering it.

Matthew 5 (New International Version)* note verses 38-48 for the point about the herald of a fundamental change in philosophy from OT law to the Way of Christ.

Matthew 5
The Beatitudes
1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Salt and Light
13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
The Fulfillment of the Law
17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
21"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[b]will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,[c]' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

25"Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.[d]
27"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'[e] 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
31"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'[f] 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
33"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
An Eye for an Eye
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons 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. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


1. Matthew 5:21 Exodus 20:13
2. Matthew 5:22 Some manuscripts brother without cause
3. Matthew 5:22 An Aramaic term of contempt
4. Matthew 5:26 Greek kodrantes
5. Matthew 5:27 Exodus 20:14
6. Matthew 5:31 Deut. 24:1
7. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21
8. Matthew 5:43 Lev. 19:18
9. Matthew 5:44 Some late manuscripts enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you