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Climbing The Mountain

Matt Brownell, Tim Adams, and Van Owens

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Climbing the Mountain is a weekly podcast devoted to the Word of God and its application in the lives of believers today. Grounded in the Sermon of the Mount, we dive into connecting scriptures to explore themes and implications.

Episode 20 - Enemy Love - Part 1

February 17, 2023

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As we dive into Matthew 5:43-48 43 and look at what it means to really love others, we will be joined by a special guest, Darryl Owens, who is an elder in the Boston Church of Christ and a police officer who specializes in training other officers in the use of force. I can think of no one better to help us bridge the gap between retaliation and loving your enemy and all the thorny questions that usually arise when we study these passages.

Hey, I'm Matt Brownell.
And I'm Van Owens.
And I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes,
connections, and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the Sermon on the Mount and
discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today.
Welcome back.
We've been studying the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the Six Antitheses, where Jesus
says, you have heard it said, but I say, and then he speaks from an authority that the teachers
of the law did not possess.
So we're down to the final one now.
And Jesus sums up a lot of what he was talking about, beginning back in Matthew 5:17, when
he said he came to fulfill the law.
And he says that anyone who relaxes the law, like their teachers had done, will be least
in the kingdom of heaven.
And then he goes even further and says, we'll not even enter the kingdom unless our righteousness
surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
They were relaxing the holy standards of God.
So in all of these examples, we're seeing either a narrowing of the law.
We're seeing clever lawyering, where we're pitting different scriptures.
We're cutting things off.
We're doing what we're creating, these loop holes.
We're expanding laws, taking them from the public area, putting them into the private
life where they're not intended to apply.
And this last example that we're about to read has a little of all of it.
It's a summary too of the whole thing.
So Tim, you want to read Matthew 5:43-48?
It says, you have heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may
be children 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.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
So it's my great pleasure to introduce Darryl Owens, who's an elder in our church, and
a police officer.
And I can think of no one better to help us bridge the gap between retaliation, what we
were just talking about, and loving your enemy.
And all the thorny questions that usually arise when we study these passages.
Van, would you like to say a few words about our special guest?
I'm happy that Darryl's here with us.
I've known Darryl for 50 some odd years.
We're brothers, we grew up together.
And I can say, and it's interesting because we talked about this a little bit as we greeted
each other while we were having lunch and hanging out before we started doing this,
is that so I believe when Darryl started his career as a police officer, it meant something
very different to him then than what it means now.
And in the progress of that time, he became a Christian, he was baptized and became a
He's now an elder in our church.
And I will say that Darryl is somebody who is very observant about everything that he
He wants to know how to do it right, and he wants to know the reasons behind doing it.
He wants to really understand it.
And that's even outside of his spirituality.
And I think that his Christian walk has given another dimension to that.
So I'm very interested in having this discussion with you, Darryl, and hearing what you have
to say.
I will say also that Darryl has a very accurate and humble perception about all of his abilities
and everything that he's done and he's quite an accomplished man as a police officer.
He's done a lot for the community.
He's done a lot in his job.
About the only thing he gets wrong is his ability to fry chicken, which is far inferior
to that of one of his other siblings.
All right.
Thanks for that really special introduction.
Except for the last part.
Except for that part.
Darryl, thanks for joining us.
So last time we were talking about retaliation.
And since these last two examples are related, could you tell us a little bit about the work
you've been doing with Boston Police and I know you've been training officers in the
use of force and de-escalation techniques.
What have you learned through this work about the battle that starts within us, inside our
hearts and the role of meekness in our lives?
Well it's an interesting question.
So I'll start with my background on the Boston Police Department.
I started in 1989 is when I became a, well when I started the police academy was in 1989.
And immediately upon graduation, a few months later, I went to the Jamaica Plain neighborhood
in Boston.
And I would say that I was a pretty driven police officer.
I had a very high arrest total.
I took a lot of guns off the street.
I took a lot of drugs off the street.
I was known as the guy who could find something when no one else could find something.
I mean you name it.
I could find a spent round in a grocery store.
I did that a few times.
I could find the bad guy because I would remember, I would drive out every morning and sort of
memorize what everybody was wearing.
Like all of the players in my neighborhood, I would just look at them, memorize them.
So when a description came out for them, I knew who it was even if they had changed their
clothes by the time we were looking for them.
So and that was great.
And I feel like during those times, I had an interesting perspective on the job.
I was very aggressive.
I believed in being very aggressive.
It was not theoretical for me.
I just translated into go get bad guys, go get bad guys, go get bad guys.
That's my job.
Later on, because of some of my physical abilities, I was asked to go to the police academy to
teach self-defense, a course called defensive tactics.
And I feel like that was a very transformative experience for me because I was teaching police
officers tactics and techniques that if placed in the wrong hands could be very harmful to
the public.
And being a black man from the inner city in Boston and having family and cousins and
friends and neighbors who are still in the inner city of Boston, I felt I was being a
custodian for them.
So I needed to teach these techniques so that the police officers could be safe, but I needed
to teach a responsibility to those techniques so that my family, friends, neighbors, and
people who looked like me in Boston would be safe.
So that's what I've done for the city of Boston.
That's sort of the launch of me.
There's so much more that I could take the whole time to talk about, but that's in a
nutshell, and of course, in there, I became a disciple.
I became a disciple right before I went to the police academy.
So God basically snatched me off the street and put me in a teaching role.
And how did that experience, becoming a Christian, change the way you viewed your job?
It was progressive, actually.
I remember I had a talk with a now very good, very long-time friend of mine, and we were
driving back from a church event.
This was very early.
She's like, that's so interesting that you're a cop.
What are you going to do if you have to kill somebody?
And I was like, well, I hope never to be there.
That's first.
And I hope to do everything I can do to not get there, but the word have to, the phrase
have to is one I'll have to consider before I answer the question.
And hopefully I'll answer the question in the moment and not in this car, in this conversation.
That was my answer.
But how it's really changed, it's really evolved over time.
I have a lot of ideas from the world of de-escalation, and I have a lot of ideas that very much
counteract with what the populace, with what the common person, with even some of my brothers
and sisters in the church, think about my job.
So there's just probably volumes of thoughts that I have, because I have to sit with this
every day.
And so I've answered the question many times.
And police officers are trained to use force if they need to.
How do you deal with, last time we were talking about retaliation and how it's such a visceral
reaction, someone hurts you, you want to get back at them.
How do you deal with, because we're all human, we all face those feelings, but now suddenly
you're in a position where you've got a gun, you've been trained to use a gun, you've
been trained to fight, and you've got people that are, you probably see the worst in humanity
a lot more than the rest of us, because you're sent to places where that's happening.
How do you deal with those kind of feelings that are so, everyone has them?
That's a great question.
I can answer it as Darryl Owens.
Not as a representative of the amazing Boston Church of Christ as an elder, and not as a
representative of the Boston Police Department for whom I've worked for 33 years.
I can answer it for me.
I do not believe in retaliation.
It is not something that is in my heart or in my veins.
It doesn't mean I don't feel the need to retaliate sometimes.
And if I do, I get open about that.
I talk to my brother when I feel retaliatory, or I talk to another one of the valued brother
in my life, like a guy like Jim Mowe, I talk to him when I feel retaliatory.
But it's something that I don't do.
And I have a real life example.
After the killing of George Floyd, there was a lot of protests in the city of Boston.
And I remember it very clearly that, so a lot of us were just out in the streets of
Boston standing around.
And when the protest was approaching us, we would put on our helmets and our face shields
and get these long 36-inch batons.
And it sounds really bad to me, be saying, hey, this is your elder going up there with
a 36-inch baton.
But so we'd be out there.
And I can remember very clearly one day this young woman came up to me, and she was in
my face, and she was yelling at me, and she was calling me all kinds of terrible names.
But the one that registered the most, that hurt the most, was when she called me a racist.
She was suggesting that I'm an anti-black racist.
And then she coughed up just enough saliva in her mouth and spat it right on my face
It was disgusting.
And in that moment, I stepped back off the line and went to clean my face shield so I
could see better.
And I did nothing to her.
And if it happened again today, I would do nothing to her.
I mean, there's no need to retaliate that kind of hate for hate.
I recognize in that moment, she is in a lot of sin.
And I could be in a lot of sin if I overreacted and used this 36-inch piece of wood in the
wrong way.
My job, the reason I was out there, was to protect her, my colleagues, and to protect
And I did that.
And I just went back and I cleaned my face shield.
I was grossed out for sure.
But I cleaned my face shield and then I went out and got back on the line.
That is a great example.
That's, thank you for sharing that.
I have a counter example.
You do?
Once when we were very little, Van and I were on a ferris wheel.
And sometimes you're in front of the car next to you, the front of the car adjacent to you,
and sometimes you're behind them.
And we were on a ferris wheel in the south, in Arkansas, in the early 70s.
And that there were two white kids on the car adjacent to us.
And sometimes they'd be behind us.
Sometimes they'd be in front of us.
And when they were behind us, they spat on us.
And it was the same level of disgust.
So this is in my background.
Van and I got off the ferris wheel and waited for those two guys and we fought those two
We were little boys, which is something little boys do.
Little boys don't understand that, you know, you don't have to retaliate for everything.
And so when I was a little boy, I didn't understand this lack of desire to retaliate.
But I do now because I know, I understand the power that I have as a police officer.
You've also worked with the town of Ferguson.
Can you tell us a little bit about that work and what you've learned from it, especially
as it relates to loving your enemies?
I'm glad to answer this question.
I'll tell you a little bit about what I'm doing in Ferguson and what I've learned first
before I deal with the loving your enemies part.
So Ferguson, as we all know, as we might know, they're a town where the Black Lives Matter
movement really officially and formally started.
And what was the catalyst for starting that was the police shooting of Michael Brown.
Now, I don't know the facts of this shooting, so I won't go into it and I don't feel like
I need to here.
But what ended up happening is that some investigators found out that there are some practices in
the city of Ferguson that were constitutional violations.
The Department of Justice and the city of Ferguson brokered a deal in the federal court
called a consent decree.
Both parties signed onto it.
And as part of the consent decree, a third party called the monitoring team was to look
at all of Ferguson's practices.
And there's a whole thing, the Ferguson consent decree, that outlines the work that this monitoring
team does.
I am on the monitoring team.
I am the use of force subject matter expert on the monitoring team.
So what I do is I have an inside look at their operations as it relates to use of force.
I can see their reports.
I can see their body camera videos.
I can see their use of force interactions.
I have them privy to their rules and their training around this area.
And I get to have make findings and make suggestions.
And it's been very difficult work.
It's been interesting.
It's very stimulating mentally for me at this point in my career.
But it's also been very interesting because I'm seeing this dynamic played out of how
do police who are very different from the community they serve in a highly volatile political
environment do their job with a degree of professionalism, a conviction about the sanctity of human
life and ideals that relate to the area of diversity.
So I get to see that firsthand.
How does it relate to the idea of love for enemies?
It does not at all.
Because when we, when I always tell the repruss that I train here in Boston, you are a person,
a man and woman of the badge.
You are not a man or a woman of the gun.
And by that I mean your job is to honor the city that hired you and to protect the people
who are in the city.
Your job is not to go out and to use this power, this strange tool that we've given
you that is designed to hurt people.
Your job is not that.
And I think they understand that more than any other generation of police ever.
So what I say, it does not relate to love of enemies.
The people that police officers serve are not their enemies.
We're not going and working in a hostile state.
We're going, I love to go back to the neighborhood that I'm from.
I love to do that.
I love to drive around the streets of this, of the inner city in Boston because I understand
And I love those people.
I do.
I love those people.
So I want to train the recruits that I'm training to love those people.
I tell them, go out there, meet them, try the food.
It's awesome.
And you know, sometimes I'll ask, sir, what about this particular food?
And I say, this is the restaurant to go get it because I've had it.
And I think that this job, the job that I'm on, does not have a relationship necessarily
with love of enemies because we're not serving enemies.
We are serving fellow citizens and protecting them.
What's interesting about that to me is when you read the passage where Jesus says, you
know, you've heard it said, love your neighbor, hate your enemy.
When he says, but I tell you, love your enemy, that's almost what he's saying.
What he's saying is that love negates enmity.
That if you love your enemy, then guess what?
That's no longer your enemy.
It's the opposite of what enmity is.
Love is the opposite of enmity.
So if you say, you know, love your enemies, then you have canceled out enmity.
And love makes work feel like service.
Love, it just changes it, right?
If Van's my brother, right?
And if Van called me and said, hey, sport, that's what he calls me.
Hey, sport, can you help me to remove a refrigerator from the apartment I used to live in?
In Hyde Park?
I mean, in Roxbury to the new house that we have down south somewhere.
And I did that.
First of all, I have to say, oh, my back is hurting.
I'm 57 years old.
So I say, my back is hurting.
My legs are hurting.
Let's call some young people like Tim.
That's very fictional.
Like Tim over here to help us.
But if I did it, it would feel like service to my brother.
So that's what I teach recruits.
These people are great, love the people.
And they're beginning to do it.
This is so much in line with what we've been covering, with how our hearts should be open
to other people, how we should be having our aim be toward Jesus and imitating him and
loving other people, deciding I've loved them and acting on that.
This is really great.
I wonder if we have time to start looking at the lie here that Jesus is addressing.
Let's spend a little bit of time here.
So the teachers of the law were evidently telling people, what you just read there,
Van, that it's fine to hate your enemies.
That's not what the Bible teaches, though, is it?
I mean, I don't know.
Some people point to the imprecatory psalms.
You know, the ones where, smite my enemies, you know, the ones where they call on God
to judge the people's enemies as an example of hating your enemies.
But that's not what Jesus is saying here.
That's not the way to interpret those psalms.
What's the danger in telling people you can love your neighbors and hate your enemies?
This lie.
I mean, the main thought that I have from this is the lie is that we are not like Jesus.
And in John 12, Jesus says, you know, the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains
only a single seed.
But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Anyone who loves their life will lose it.
While anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be.
And Jesus clearly said an example for loving our enemies, right?
When we were all his enemies.
He died for us when he's getting spat on and his clothes are being gambled for.
He's saying forgive them for they don't know what they're doing.
And he calls us to follow in his footsteps.
And so if we say, oh, I can hate my enemy, we're saying, oh, Jesus did it, but I don't
need to.
And I think Jesus makes the point that I'm living this way and I call you to do the same.
I call you to imitate my example.
He's come to fulfill the law and he certainly did.
I, do you want to say something?
You know, I've thought a lot about this as well.
And when people are trying to get you to hate somebody else, when people are insisting
that you hate somebody else, there's always something in it for them.
And typically it's, it's power.
It's relational power, it's financial power, it's social power that when people present
another group as something to be feared, they're not looking, they're looking for something
for self.
It's, it's a very, it's a very secular idea.
It's very human, of course, because we're tribal, right?
And the tribe gets stronger.
People have this impression of tribes that they get stronger when their walls are stronger,
when they have more fear, when all the arrows are pointed outward.
So I think that the Pharisees here in this passage were being human beings and of course
And they were, they wanted the Jews to hate the occupying force because where would they
Oh, to the temple.
Where would they turn?
They would turn inward and they would point all the arrows outward.
And it might get the Pharisees to be cast in a more positive light if they had a common
Well, that's interesting.
I didn't thought about that.
But you're right.
What you were just saying reminded me, so my background in architecture and planning
made me think of China a little bit and the Wutong housing.
So their whole country is a wall, it's got the Great Wall, but then you go down at scale
and you get down to the forbidden city, right?
That's walled off.
Everything's walled off.
You got cities that are walled off, the whole country's walled off, and then you get down
to the household.
And that's set up like a courtyard with the walls on the outside and you had different
So everything is like to keep out, to protect.
And you're right.
There is a, I think, a long history of you can other someone and then you're stronger.
Yeah, I think that the problem with hating anybody is hate and love are both virulent.
They're both contagious.
CS Lewis calls Christianity the good infection, because when you live it, when you live it
out, it spreads in a way that is mysterious and swift and all of a sudden it's just spreading.
But hatred is the same way.
And just like if I had a very contagious disease and sitting here and told you guys,
I have this very contagious disease and you've all been sitting in this room with me for
at least an hour, you're all probably going to get it.
Thanks for telling me that.
But that's nothing that I can really, I can't control it.
I can't come into the room and say, I really hate Matt Brownell and I want to give him
this disease that I have.
Here, let's swap.
Because now I could do that.
But you know, then I might give it to Brian Fisher and Little Levi too.
I love those guys because you can't control it.
It's virulent.
It's something that, and I agree with what you were saying, Darryl, it's something that
when somebody wants you to hate somebody, there's something in it for them and there
is something behind it.
When you hate somebody, there's always something behind it.
But when you release it, there's no way to control it.
The same is true for love.
When you love somebody, you don't want to contain that anyway.
You can't contain it or it's not love.
And as soon as you let it out, it's not like you have a limited supply of it.
It keeps coming out and it just spreads.
I like what you were saying too earlier about love.
And then once you love someone, they're not your enemy anymore.
When I was thinking about this, I thought about the Good Samaritan parable because it
feels like when you look at this statement that they were teaching, you can love your
neighbor but hate your enemy.
Well, the most natural question is to say, well, who's my neighbor?
Who do I get to love?
And it makes the law this real squishy thing, right, where I can choose, well, that guy
treated me like dirt.
Nah, he's my enemy now.
And I can treat him like dirt too.
And it just is the opposite.
And Jesus totally upends all of that with the Good Samaritan, you know, for the guy
who wanted to justify himself.
Who's my neighbor?
But it's the one who showed mercy.
I can't believe how we've been talking.
This is such an interesting topic.
Let's have some more episodes on this one.
Thank you guys.
Thank you.

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