Do we have enemies (part 1)

In my very first blog I wrote about the culture war in America, and said this:

[W]e fight not “against flesh and blood” but “against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  None of the people around us — whether Christian, Muslim, or atheist, whether Democrat or Republican – are the enemy.

We are not called to conquer in Jesus’ name politically.

Pastormac (my brother and good friend) asked:

 I do have a question about this statement: “None of the people around us — whether Christian, Muslim, or atheist, whether Democrat or Republican – are the enemy.”

I understand in a big view that the devil is always the enemy, but are you saying that people are never the enemy? Was Hitler an enemy? Was Osama Bin Laden an enemy? Is it ever appropriate to treat flesh and blood people as enemies? Please, note that I am not specifically stating how one should treat an enemy, just questioning what you mean when you say “none of the people around us” are enemies.

The more I thought about this, the more I liked the question.  Here are my thoughts so far. As always, all Bible quotes are from the NASB.

Do we have enemies?

Yes, of course. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says “love your enemies”, which presupposes that we will sometimes have them.

Saying someone is my enemy can mean two different things. Someone can be my enemy because they hate me, or because I hate them (or both.)  In Matthew 5:44 Jesus must have the first sense in mind. I love someone who is opposed to me, and he continues to be my enemy because of his attitude toward me. It has nothing to do with whether I am against him or not. This is what Pastormac means by his question, because he added

Please, note that I am not specifically stating how one should treat an enemy, just questioning what you mean when you say “none of the people around us” are enemies.

Is it ever appropriate for me, as a follower of Christ to show hostility to someone else? Can I do that and love them at the same time? I’ll consider that question briefly in the next part.

Anyway, one reason we can have enemies is because of our walk with Christ.

Sometimes, of course, I may say people are enemies because of my faith, but it’s really my own fault. I act obnoxiously or self-righteously in the name of Christ; someone else gets offended and lashes out at me; I react by feeling persecuted and concluding that he is an enemy of Jesus. He isn’t necessarily, of course – he just doesn’t like me much! Proverbs 16:7 seems apropos:

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

If we are really living as Christ wants us to, then we will be generally hard to hate.

On the other hand, sometimes people really are enemies of the gospel.

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ.
Paul, Philippians 3:18

Such people will oppose us more strongly the more we follow Christ.

There is a third case: sometimes people will hate us for reasons completely unrelated to our faith. If you are African-American, some people will hate you just because of your race. If you are American, some people will hate you just because of your nationality. If you are a Muslim, some people will hate you just because of your religion. If you are a Hatfield, the McCoys will hate you just because of your last name.

So yes, we have enemies. In the next part I’ll consider whether we have battles.

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