When Your Enemy Is Hungry

There are three major references in the NT to how Christians are to treat their enemies:

(Matthew 5:43-48 NKJV)  "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' {44} "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. {46} "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? {47} "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? {48} "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

(Luke 6:27-38 NKJV)  "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} "bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. {29} "To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. {30} "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. {31} "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. {32} "But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. {33} "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. {34} "And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. {35} "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. {36} "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. {37} "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. {38} "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

(Romans 12:20-21 NKJV)  Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I think when the war in Afghanistan is finally analyzed it will be the food parcels not the bombs that will be seen as winning the day. The concrete and definite hope of a full stomach during winter will be found as the driving force behind the defections and the overthrow of the Taliban. People tend tol support whoever feeds them, hence after the feeding of the five thousand the multitudes wanted to make Jesus King by force (John 6:1-15). Likewise the French Revolution was inevitable after Marie Antoinette’s disdainful “give them cake” remark to the hungry masses. Communism succeeded in poor countries because it promised to give the wealth of the rich to the starving poor. It collapsed when the poor figured out that capitalism might feed them even better. Thus feeding your enemy is not just good Christianity - it is wise foreign policy.

As we have seen terrorists thrive on poverty and economic injustice. Likewise they shall lose support if the poor have full stomachs. The bulk of Muslims will see reason when they see food. As economic injustice is corrected and foreign aid programs put in place that are more than just handouts, but which actually generate the power to make wealth, then the anger of Muslims will slowly be abated. A sound economy in Muslim nations and the hope of a just prosperity and a full stomach for their poor are vital if we are to see even a semblance of true peace in the world in our lifetime.

The Christian injunction “do not overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good” may be by far the most cost-effective solution to terrorism. For instance Mindanao, in the southern Philippines is locked into a vicious cycle, poverty creates desperation which produces terrorism and banditry which creates instability which causes investors, missionaries and businesses to withdraw from what should be a very prosperous area, which in turn creates poverty, which then creates desperation and terrorism. If Mindanao can stabilize for long enough for the power to make wealth to be given to it and established in the culture than this cycle will be broken. Once even minimal security and stability is established then massive investment and setting up of businesses will be needed, and should be done on the “power to make wealth” model rather than the “handout” model. As the Mindanao economy recovers this potentially prosperous region will yield a good return to investors thus making the recovery and stabilization of the radicalized Muslim communities eventually cost neutral.

For every active terrorist there are probably 1000 angry and hurting Muslims. These are not yet totally radicalized and they are not totally sold on violence just yet. Basically they want peace but the price of that peace is justice, food and fairness. If justice, food and fairness are not delivered then these angry Muslims will supply the terrorists of the future.

Most poor people do not demand to live in a luxury mansion in Bel-Air. The demands of the poor are generally fairly basic and include items such as rice, fish, clean water, reasonable wages, basic housing, education and affordable community level medical care. Above all they want to feel that there is a reasonable hope of economic progress and that they are not trapped and oppressed. On a cultural level they wish to lose their sense of being despised for their poverty and lack of development and they wish the strengths of their culture to be recognized. They already are fully aware of any weaknesses it might have.

Our enemies are hungry and thirsty and they need food and clean water and if we give those basic things to them then many of them will become our friends. According to Charles Handy sixty percent of the world’s trade in cereals such as rice, wheat, maize etc, is controlled by the Cargill family in the USA. Cargill Corporation also has a larger sales turnover in coffee beans than the GDP’s of any of the African nations from which it buys its coffee. This one family could make a huge contribution to world peace if it decided to help feed the developing world. Apparently Brazil has a huge problem with food production because much of its arable land is being used to raise beef for export rather than food for the domestic market. Again one family (the Rockefellers) is the major player. A few families and corporations such as Dole, Cargill and the other agri-business giants can do more to feed the poor than the UN can or even the US government can.

The point is this- if we don’t feed our enemies we will reap a harvest of terrorism and lawlessness. And if we continue in economic injustice we will reach that final market that God judges and burns. The price of economic injustice will be terrorism, lawlessness, economic breakdown, a global lawless and idolatrous market and a final catastrophic judgment. This whole either/or scenario rests on perhaps 500 to 1000 people in western countries who control the food supply and money supply of the world. The church must reach those top 1000 people and persuade them that it is in their interest to establish a fair and just market particularly for basic commodities. The church must also reach governments and persuade them to regulate the market and to institute practical overseas aid. All these people could fit in one large church. The task is that defined and that achievable. We must reach these decision-makers with the truth. Because if we don’t - who will?

In Revelation 6 the four horsemen of the apocalypse go forth and one is a merchant with a set of scales.

(Revelation 6:5-6 NKJV)  When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come and see." So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. {6} And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine."

A denarius was a day’s wages for a laborer– maybe $50 in today’s money. So that is incredibly expensive wheat and barley! The luxury goods such as oil and wine are being protected while the price of basic commodities goes through the roof. The black horse is a time of gross economic injustice that will occur when the world market gets out of control under the Anti-Christ. (Perhaps the black horse is the Black Market.) The black horse is followed by the horseman called Death, and the three final seal judgments. This fits with my previous assertion that unjust trade is one of the final signs of a city, empire or world that is about to be judged.

            We have a choice. We can let lawless and greedy people rule the world economy or we can insist that the world economy be made fair and just. Rich Christians make up a sizable chunk of the world’s wealth. One figure says 70% but that seems too high a figure to me. Whether it is 40% or 70% our portion of global wealth is still sizable and influential. If all those who call themselves Christians absolutely insisted on a fair and just world economy then economic injustice would end. God has given His church the power to create a fair and just world and enough resources to accomplish it with. However we seem to lack the willpower and the obedience to make this happen.

            The task of feeding our enemies and holding the world back from anarchy for a few more years rests with the Church as she draws power and authority from the King of Kings and preaches the gospel of salvation. As I see it there are four core economic tasks for the Church:

  1. Convince just 1000 or so powerful people of the need for a fair market.
  2. Convince our legislators of the need for international law in this area.
  3. Use the vast financial muscle of Christians ethically and persuade the Market to change.
  4. Teach the principles of prosperity, the power to make wealth and a biblical work ethic.

This is a discrete and achievable task and God will help us to do it if we commit ourselves to achieving it. Can you start with a polite and practical letter to major corporations and politicians in your area? Can you make an appointment with a major CEO who is known to you or to someone in your church? In this networked world we are no more than “six handshakes” away from any one person. That is we know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone etc. who knows that person. I am just a missionary but a neighbor went to London and became a stable-hand for the Queen so I am just “one handshake” away from royalty! Similarly I know someone from the Texas Republican Party that knows President Bush. In this amazingly networked world we can often find a connection that will lead us to the person we need to influence. What I am trying to say without big-noting myself is that you may have a bit more influence than you think you have and that with God’s help you may be able to do your bit to make this a more just world.

            We need to ensure that our enemies are fed and have the hope of justice because God is good both to the just and the unjust. It is up to Christians to move beyond adrenalin-filled fight-or-flight responses to attack, to a mastery based, Spirit-filled Christian response that takes the situation in hand and produces peace.

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