What if we had no enemies?
What if that’s exactly what Christianity teaches but few of us accept?
I’ve been holed up at my home for the last two days recovering from being sick, and in between fitful bouts of sleeping and waking my heart and head have been struck by two teachings of Jesus and Paul.
The real life context in which I find myself is of course the same all of us in the U.S. are in – a political mess littered with groups of people either unable or unwilling to try to understand one another.
In short, I sure see a lot of people making enemies out of others.
And a lot of those people who seem to be doing the enemy-making call themselves Christians.
Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “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…” (Matt. 5:43-44)
Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)
What Jesus is clearly stating is that we do have enemies insofar as there are certainly people who may wish us harm or ill; that much is clear from most of our life experience, as well.
But there’s a lot more to what Jesus is saying about those perceived enemies, and Paul’s teaching expands on that teaching.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
That’s not an idle, impotent suggestion, as if it’s an afterthought. It’s a call to a different kind of lifestyle. Because if we are to truly love our enemies in the full sense of the word “love,” how can we call them enemies any more?
In loving them, if we do really love them, we come to understand who they are and why they act the way they do. We come to genuinely care about them, even if we may not actually “like” them.
When taken together with Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians, we better understand why people we label as “evil” act the way they do: our struggle is actually against the spiritual forces of evil, not flesh and blood.
People (including myself, surely, and you, too, from time to time) are subject to being influenced by our real Enemy – the only true source of evil in the universe, God’s ancient Adversary.
That is our only Enemy, and we fight him with all we have in the spiritual realm and call him out when we see him or his emissaries moving people to do their will and not their own.
That isn’t to say that people don’t become compromised and willingly allow themselves to be carried by real evil, whether they consciously recognize it or not. Of course they do.
It is to say that, regardless, people themselves are not our enemies. There is no “us vs. them” – as far as people are concerned, we’re all “us.” There is no “them.”
If you call yourself a Christian, it is your obligation to actively be about loving everyone. That’s explicitly what Jesus’ commanded.
As you practice loving everyone – acknowledging that love doesn’t necessitate approval or affirmation of choices – watch as your perspectives begin to slowly shift.
You, Christian, are called to radical love. There is no other way of understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ.