Monday, 10 December 2012

The Enemy Within

"... and gave us the ministry
of reconciliation ..."
2 Corinthians 5:18

I’ve been thinking about “enemies” and how the New Testament seems to use the word in comparison to how we seem to often understand it in our society today. I am starting to think that maybe we’re still missing something; maybe we haven't got it all quite right yet.

Before we get into that, though, let’s first do a little Greek 101. The Greek word for “enemy” is the word “echthros.” The word “echthra” is usually translated as “hostility” and “hatred” and is the opposite of “love” and “friendship.”

Paul speaks of “while we were enemies” (Romans 5:10). While “we” were enemies, what? While we were enemies, God loved us enough to send His Son. While we seemed to know not how to love and relate to others and to our Creator, God sent His only begotten Son. While we were still antagonistic toward Him, Jesus died for us. God wasn’t the enemy; we were.

If you and I call ourselves “children of God,” it would be logical to assume that we bear some sort of resemblance to our Father God. It would be logical to assume that we would model our interpersonal relationships, at least somewhat, on the example that He gave us. It would be logical to assume that we would “turn the other cheek” a little more than we do. It would be logical to assume that we would not respond to the hostility with more hostility, but rather respond in love, just as God responded to our hostility toward Him with love.

This would be logical to assume. Unfortunately, as that quaint old saying asks, “You know what ‘assume’ means?” It makes an “ass” of “u” and “me.” Unfortunately, things aren’t always logical in our world. Unfortunately, things aren’t always as we assume that they are or should be.

In our world, it seems to me that we still have this “enemy” thing figured out all backwards. We still think of enemies as being out there somewhere. One nation goes to war against another nation, and we call them (the other guys) our enemies. One person feels oppressed by another, and we call the other our enemy. But I am starting to think that our view on this may be opposite to God’s view on it.

It seems to me that God’s view is that the real enemy is always first within. The real enemy is not the other guy; the real enemy is within me. Ouch. If I have problems with that other guy, the problem is first of all mine, and not his. Could it be that the real enemy is actually within me, and not in him as I have previously thought?

The real enemy, the “echthros,” is my failure to act in love and relationship toward that other person. The enemy is not that other person; the real enemy is me not responding to that other person as God responded to us, while we too were sinners, while we too were enemies.

So when Jesus said, “love your enemies,” He made it first about us, and not them. He made it about our response, and not their offence, or what we perceive as their offence. Who is the enemy? Maybe the enemy is actually none other than me. Maybe the enemy is my attitude towards others for whom, I might add, Christ also died.

Could it be that, to love your enemy, first means to love yourself? Could it be that, if there is no love in you and for you, you will never be able to respond to others the way God would have you to respond? Why? Could it be because the real enemy, the enemy within us, is still alive and well? Maybe the reason why all our peace talks and all our treaties historically haven't always worked out so well is because we too often have focussed our efforts and energies on the wrong enemy. Perhaps we should have started with the enemy within.

What is God’s solution to “echthros,” to hostility and hatred? Love. If only we could learn to respond with love instead of hostility and hatred, then we might discover that we’ve begun to respond to others with the mind of Christ. And if that happens, then I suspect that we will also have begun to join Him in becoming agents of reconciliation, introducing our “enemies,” our very internal selves, to the transforming power of God. Maybe that's what the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18) is ultimately all about.

If we ever get to that point, and at the risk of over simplifying things too much, perhaps we may even begin to see that there never really was another enemy after all.

Just a thought. Peace.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
Photographer Comment: "Yellow flowers are a symbol of peace, something we need with ourselves before anyone else."


  1. I love this post, Will. It challenges me at a deep level and that kind of challenge is incredibly beneficial.

    What you have written about enemies seems to relate to what I wrote a couple of months ago about forgiving one another's debt.

    We have both understood that Father wants us to see things the other way round from our normal view.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Thanks, Chris.

      I will check out your post too. Peace & Blessings.