The word “enemies” came up a couple of times yesterday. I know that two of those times were in a quote from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, but I used it myself, and that got me thinking about the whole idea of identifying some people as enemies.
Who is my enemy? Is it someone who I disagree with? Is it someone who has the temerity to disagree with me? Is it someone who hates me because I did something wrong to him or her? Is it someone who’s out to get me because they don’t like my face?
Can I even remember why we became enemies?
Or maybe it’s a religious thing, or a political or social matter. Is someone my enemy because they think differently or are rich or socially conservative (or progressive)? Do I have to know them personally for them to be my enemy?
The paradox of Jesus’ call to love our enemies is that once we commit to loving our enemies, they cease to be our enemies. They might still think of us as an enemy, but it takes two to create an enemy relationship. If one person hates the other but the other refuses to play along by hating back, sooner or later the first one starts to see the second one in a different light. It takes time and patience, but Person 2 has just reduced their enemy count, to the tune of 1.
That’s a very necessary principle.
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”
— Matthew 12:25
There is an enemy, and so long as we humans look at other humans in terms of friends and enemies, that enemy gets the upper hand without lifting a finger. Our house — the human race, the people God created higher than any other creatures — is divided because we choose to regard some people as enemies and others as friends and still more as People We Don’t Really Regard One Way Or The Other, and that’s just the way the real enemy likes it.
That’s another of the myriad reasons why we need Jesus and need to know what He’s about.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
— Matthew 11:29 (KJV)
We need to reach out and turn our “enemies” into people we love — and with that, we’ll find rest for our souls. Jesus is not about religion: He’s about the way to live and the way to build our relationship with God. He is also about unifying us, bringing us together with a strength that transcends any kind of religious observance that humankind has developed and building a strong, united house that can stand against that real enemy.
It’s a house the Lord wants to build.
Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
— Psalm 127:1
Jesus tells us “Resist not evil“, (Matthew 5:39), while His half-brother tells us, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). We don’t respond to the evil act or consider the person committing the act as an evil person; in so doing, we resist the temptation to respond “in kind” and the devil is sent packing. The more we resist that temptation and choose instead to love those who would do wrong to us, the more we are united in Christ and the more the devil is defeated.
Enemies? More like, friends that you haven’t gotten to know.