Friday, June 3, 2011

"Who Is My Enemy?"

I awoke early this morning with one of those kinds of “Aha” moments that make me continue to pursue dichotomies, ironies, and even the absurd in hopes of enlightening insight. Finding that tonight’s (June 3, 2011) New Wine, New Wineskins event in Portland, Oregon would discuss issues related to Osama Bin Laden and Muslims for Peace prompts this post of an otherwise personal “discipleship-moment.”

I attended the April 28 discussion between Dr. Paul Metzger and Abbott Kyogen Carlson at Dharma Rain Zen Center that would fit among the activities soon-after characterized (even if tongue-in-cheek) as “Fraternizing with the Enemy” (C. Seigneur, Christianity Today, May 2011, 55/5, 96). Over the past few weeks that title has returned to my thoughts intrusively, accompanied by an entirely disproportionate annoyance. (A clear sign to think more about it.)

I considered that my reaction to the phrase might be a sympathetic response to Dr. Metzger’s position (having experienced distrust from both the therapeutic and Evangelical communities for my presumed acceptance in both). I also considered that it might stem from inconsistencies in my Christian boundaries—that I might be “going soft” in failing to correctly identify The Enemies of the Faith. (Fleeting moment, that.) I even tried some combination of “Love your enemies,” only to recognize that I had decided not only to fraternize, but to cooperate and serve alongside some who, I believe, are being used to accomplish God’s purpose, even as they deny His existence (or the value of His Son).

Christians are often slow to apply the answer to “Who is my neighbor?” by tangible action. We are so much quicker to apply the answer to “Who is my enemy?” that we must be far more careful about the question.

Jesus is clear that there are enemies who oppose His word and work. He does not, however, prescribe opposing them. (Luke 19:27 notwithstanding, applying as it does to eschatological judgment). Loving them, doing good to them, praying for them…these are the prescriptions of The Great Physician. Even defining themselves as enemies seems a task best left to those who choose to oppose the gospel. For the Apostle Paul, the same values apply. Even the warnings against Hymenaeus, Philetus and Alexander seek a redemptive outcome for those who have previously claimed to share faith in Christ. Most importantly, Paul differentiates between the “flesh and blood” against whom we are not to struggle, and “the rulers…the powers..the world forces of this darkness…the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

The enemy of our souls is also the enemy of those whom he has seduced, oppressed, beguiled, deluded, and/or enslaved. Ironically, some of those we would identify as our enemies recognize—often more clearly than Christians do—the damage being done to their fellow human beings by The Enemy. Many of them are attempting to rebel against a worldly system through worldly means, unaware of rebelling against God in doing so. Is this, perhaps, because they perceive no other option?

The Godly system of justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8) is often obscured by the tactics of those who should be its greatest champions. Prior to conversion, I could not see the gospel amidst the wreckage of Christendom. The message I received from Christians was that there were two versions of The Good News. For those within the church, the good news was that their dismal life of bitterness and hypocrisy eventually led to eternal glory in heaven. For those of us outside, their good news seemed to be that “It’s every man for himself, and God against all.”

Yet God is for all. Not willing that any should perish. Seeking all to come to repentance. Seeking to rescue, to save, to redeem, to justify, to cleanse, to make whole…and apparently willing to use some of the most unlikely “enemies” to accomplish His purposes. (Not only Paul, but even Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, and Judas.)

The enemy of my soul used Christians to deliver his message of condemnation. God uses non-Christians to accomplish His purposes of redemption. With whom do I intend to cooperate most? (I am not Nehemiah to Cyrus, nor Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, and certainly not Moses to Pharaoh. But to the extent that God has opened opportunities for serving His purposes to and with those who have not yet been saved by grace through faith, I hope that I am found faithful.)

If the enemy of my enemy can be my friend, then I can join with Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and Atheists in seeking to provide more accessible palliative and Hospice care to patients whose unabated agonies would otherwise be more profitable to the health-care industry. If the enemy of my enemy can be my friend, then I can openly disagree with secular feminists on a variety of issues, and still work toward naming “adult industries” as the slave-systems they are. And if the enemy of my enemy can be my friend, I can join with those who disagree with me on the range of options that should be available to a pregnant thirteen-year-old, because we agree that there should be far fewer pregnant thirteen-year-olds.

In short, I should willingly work with anyone God chooses to motivate toward His purposes in this world, whether or not they have yet acknowledged Him as the source of the passions, gifts, and experiences comprising that calling. And when I can show by resilience, joy, compassion, and devotion that Christ’s presence in me allows the pursuit of these and other ends in a more fulfilling and effective manner, do some of those united only in a cause against a common enemy come to find a mutual friend in Christ? Frankly, not nearly so many as I would hope. (But, then, that’s just the Evangelical in me talking.)

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