Friday, March 11, 2016

Choose your enemies, carefully

If you are ready to experience more joy and find real liberation in this life, then it’s time to realize: The more the strength we imagine our enemies have, the more control we give our enemies over us -- which ends up meaning less bliss and less freedom for us.  Therefore, we need be more selective in who we call our enemies, and, we need to realize who our actual enemies truly are.  

Besides.  Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy.  We end up doing more damage to ourselves through our own self-sabotage or our inability to manage certain transitions well.  We can hurt ourselves more than a thousand enemies ever could.  

But lately, it seems like creating enemies has become an industry.  From political ads where people within the same party demonize their opponents more than their rivals do, to the perennial spats over borders/airspace/international waters, and from class warfare to what denominational ties a person claims, we label far too many people as our enemies.  This can’t be healthy for anyone.  And in the meantime the homeless still go cold, the uneducated suffer, the impoverished remain marginalized, starvation runs rampant worldwide, and many elderly are neglected.

Everywhere we look it seems like enemies are being pointed out for us to hate or blame.  But what about closer to home?  Like the person who bullied you, wronged you, betrayed you, wounded you deeply, abused you, or destroyed your trust?  Have they earned the prevailing title of enemy?  Out of curiosity, how’s it coming, your efforts to settle the score?  Remember Scripture says to leave room for God’s wrath, He will handle the situation better than we can.    

Part of the problem with hatred or scorekeeping is the result, we tend to live as victims instead of victors (lest we forget, according to the Bible we reign with Christ).  Another more dangerous aspect of guarding our enemies against ever becoming allies is we never forgive people in the enemy camp.  Jesus had some strong words for His followers about the essential/symbiotic relationship between forgiving from the heart and being forgiven by the Father.  

I’m not suggesting for one moment you have to become friends with harmful people -- healthy boundaries are more than appropriate.  On the other hand, remember, the Bible is clear about the spiritual damage we will suffer if we harbor hatred and carry unforgiveness in our heart.  Forgive them and truly free yourself; life is too short to stay bitter and angry.

Yet, isn’t it also true, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves from the people who were seemingly our biggest enemies?  We learned what matters, what counts, who we really are and who we don’t want to be, because of what we suffered from them.  I know I’m not alone in this experience.

Do you know how much better you’d sleep if you stopped viewing the person who caused you so much pain as an enemy?  Do you really realize all the good that could happen if political adversaries cooperated?  Or what churches could accomplish if everyone ignored denominational affiliations or inter-denominational squabbles and people simply collaborated in the name of Jesus?  

A lot of our arguments and divisions are forged in conflicts over liberal vs conservative or contemporary vs traditional, when in reality, there’s only the eternal Kingdom which Jesus already established.  Often times, choosing our enemies comes down to the positions we hold.  But haven’t you changed your mind on positions before?  Haven't you ever discovered you were (take a deep breath) wrong before?  

When we allow our enemies to become an all-consuming train of thought, is it any wonder our view of life becomes clouded and remains gloomy?  From exes to the Government, from old friends to former employers, we can stack the battlefield with more enemies than we can shake a stick at.  And eventually once we’ve surrounded ourselves with all of these enemies, we live on the defense.  

It’s impossible for us to accomplish anything positive if we are stuck in protection mode.  You can’t spend money while it’s locked up in a safe and you can’t raise a family in a bomb shelter.  Sometimes you have to let down your guard, take a chance, and move on with life in spite of the risks.

In the end, there's only one common enemy we all face, and Jesus said that enemy who is the father of lies comes to kill, steal, and destroy.  And, Scripture teaches us clearly our battle isn’t against flesh & blood, it’s against dark supernatural powers.  Until we realize our enemies are demonic forces of evil and we fight our greatest battle on a spiritual plane, all the worldly enemies we set up in our crosshairs are mere distractions.

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