Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We Became Friends

This Sunday we will conclude our “Love: Go For The Gold” message series. We have seen this month what it means to love God; to love others; and to love our neighbors. This week we wrap it all up by looking at what Jesus said about loving our enemies. Loving God and loving our neighbor is one thing – but loving our enemies – that is something on a whole different level.

I believe I had one of the greatest examples of what it means to love our enemies by watching the life of one of my biggest spiritual heroes, Dr Jerry Falwell. I’m sure you realize that Dr Falwell had many enemies and one of the biggest enemies he developed was porn-king, Larry Flynt. You might recall that Dr Falwell and Larry Flynt went at each other big time in the public media. And it grew to the climax when Larry Flynt ran a parody in his Hustler magazine suggesting that Dr Falwell’s “first time” was with his own mother in an outhouse. Now folks, if that isn’t an enemy, I don’t know what is. As a result, Dr Falwell sued Larry Flynt and won on the local and federal levels but ultimately lost the appeal at the Supreme Court level. After that case, Dr Falwell and Larry Flynt debated each other in Universities and on national television shows like Larry King Live on the topic of pornography and first amendment rights.

But Dr Falwell didn’t get bitter. He built a friendship with Larry Flynt. Flynt’s own recollection of this is seen in his words that he posted as an editorial in his Hustler magazine on May 20, 2007 (the week after Dr Falwell died). He said:

“Soon after that episode (the Supreme Court ruling), I was in my office in Beverly Hills and out of nowhere my secretary buzzes me saying, ‘Jerry Falwell is here to see you.’ We talked for two hours with the latest issues of Hustler magazine stacked neatly on my desk. In the years that followed he’d come to see me every time he was in California. We’d exchange personal Christmas Cards. He’d show me pictures of his grandchildren. I was with him in Florida once when he complained about his health and his weight. I suggested that he go on a diet that had worked for me. I faxed a copy to his wife when I got back home.”

Once Dr Falwell’s son, Jonathan, asked him why he worked so hard at keeping a relationship with Larry Flynt. Dr Falwell responded,

“One day Larry Flynt will come to a place in his life when he needs a friend. And there will come a time when he needs something of a spiritual nature. When that happens, I want to be the man that he calls.”

Dr Falwell knew what it meant to “love his enemies” and to “pray for those who persecuted Him.” But did it work? I love the last line of Larry Flynt’s editorial in his magazine after Dr Falwell’s death. It says this:

“I’ll never admire him (Dr Falwell) for his views or his opinions. But the ultimate result was one I never expected and was just as shocking a turn to me as winning that famous Supreme Court case: We became friends.”

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