…especially if you are on a crusade. In fact, then you need enemies. It doesn’t have to be a real crusade; it can be one of your own making, or one confined to your overwrought imagination. Or it can be a cause, a church, a group, a system of theology.
Imagine a crusade without enemies. What if you embarked on Your Great Cause, and no one opposed you? After awhile, in order to go on feeling brave and important, you would have to create enemies, because crusades require battles, and battles require foes. See that guy over there? He isn’t as enthusiastic about my cause — he may have even yawned once during one of my speeches — obviously he’s not for me wholeheartedly so he’s my enemy! And those people have their own cause instead of mine, so they must be enemies! And that woman complained when I spilled coffee on her child, so she has proven herself an enemy of The Cause! And he asked me a question that I didn’t like, so he’s an enemy as well!
Once you have enemies, you can vilify them, lampoon them, and mistreat them at will because this isn’t a crusade anymore, it’s WAR! And once war has been declared, the actual Cause no longer really matters — it’s all about amassing followers, attacking and defending, forming alliances, maintaining your position of power, and defeating the enemy.
The only problem is that, to outsiders who aren’t playing along with your war games, you start looking a little like a crackpot. Your dramatic cries about being under siege begin to sound delusional and paranoid. Eventually helpful observers try to talk you down: Maybe people are put off by your bizarre behavior. Perhaps you should stop running around waving your sword everywhere. People have a point; you do say some wacky and offensive things. You really need to be more careful with hot coffee around children, and you need to apologize to the people you’ve burnt. But you are unwilling to admit that they are right, or that not everyone who points out your error is a mortal enemy. If you did so, you might have to admit that the entire war that has consumed your life is a false one of your creation.
Even worse, you might have to admit the deep, dark secret you don’t even want to admit to yourself. Behind all your bluster and posturing on the pretend battlefield is this terrible, gripping fear, the question you dare not ask: without your war, who would you be? perhaps just a nobody, like everyone else?
Ephesians 6:12 tells us:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
These people you think are your enemies? They are not your enemies. You are fighting the wrong battle, against the wrong enemies, in the wrong way.
But, you protest, the Bible says that there are “enemies of the Cross”! Face it — you are not the Cross; you are not the gospel. Quit pretending to be anything other than the fallen, sinful, saved by grace — just like the rest of us — sinner that you are. And, even if the enemies of the Cross sometimes happen to be your enemies as well, remember Jesus’ words in Luke 6:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
That doesn’t mean get all snarky and verbally abusive with them, falsely accuse them, malign their motives, demean them, mock them, or dismiss their legitimate questions and concerns. It means love…do good…bless…pray. Love them as much as you love yourself.
Of course that’s impossible for most of us. That’s why we need Jesus…and why we need the Holy Spirit to empower us to do the impossible.
If the people we think are our enemies are people professing to be Christian, if we love Jesus, we will want what He prayed in His high priestly prayer: “that they may be one even as we are one”. How dare we wage civil wars within the Body of Christ? And if our supposed enemies do not believe in Jesus, we should be doing our best to love them into the Kingdom.
May I never forget that.
Let the wars and crusades cease. Let the love of Jesus reign instead.