Who is the Enemy
Martha is so angry at the women in her small group who had a jewelry party and did not invite her.
James is livid at his supervisor who continues to expect long hours on the job with no praise, affirmation or reward.
Ray is beside himself about the liberal politicians who have recently re-defined marriage for the American culture and at all “those gays” who are ruining our country.
Karen just finished a 15-minute rage at her husband after she caught him looking at internet pornography again.
If you are part of a family, a church, a company, a ball team or a classroom, you have experienced that one person that gets on your nerves, ticks you off, irritates you, rejects you or abuses you. In the moment when the anger rises up like water in an overheated radiator, it is easy to see the other person as your enemy and react. Some people talk about the enemy in person or on Facebook and gather support for their side. Others walk away like a wounded puppy, tail between their legs, and nurse the hurt and bitterness for years. Still others fight back, with words, with retaliatory actions or with a lawsuit. Personally, I have done all three and I have to report that not only did it not make me feel better, it actually made things worse.
Here is the problem. We are confused about who the enemy is. Jesus told us to love our enemies, to pray for them and even to bless them (Matthew 5:42-48, Luke 6:28-31). What? You want me to love them, pray for them and bless them when what I really want to do is spit on them and hit them upside the head with a 2 x 4! Yes! And do you know why? Because they are not the enemy. Nope, not a mistype. You read it right. The selfish women, the greedy boss, the misguided politicians and the unfaithful husband are NOT the enemy.
In Ephesians 6:10-18 the Apostle Paul encourages the follower of Christ to be fully clothed in the armor of God, ready to do battle (yes! Now we are talking!). However, he makes it clear that the enemy is not “flesh and blood” (v13) but “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. The pettiness of Martha’s friends, the drivenness of James’ boss, the wrong thinking and messed up values of the politicians and the lust of Karen’s husband all have their origin in Satan and the realm of evil. He is the “god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4) and He has blinded the minds of those who do not believe. He is our enemy. There is a battle going on behind the scenes in our lives, a battle that has already been won by Christ on the cross but not claimed by those who live in this world and not fully realized until Satan is cast down.
In the meantime, we fight. We fight against evil. We fight against greed. We fight against lust. We fight against jealousy. We fight against materialism. But we don’t fight against each other.
Easier said than done! I believe there is a key for us in the Ephesians passage. It does speak of the sword of truth so we are to speak truth (in love) to those who
oppose and hurt us. It mentions the breastplate of righteousness so we are to remind ourselves that our righteousness is not our own but His, given to cover our own mess (so no bragging about how much better we are than them). But notice at the end of the passage he encourages us to pray… on all occasions… with vigilance.
So here is what I am suggesting. The next time someone makes you so mad that you could spit, before you send the flaming e-mail, before you post the self-righteous Facebook status, before you go by and key their car, pray. Ask God to help you discern who your enemy really is. Pray that He would open your eyes to the spiritual battle that is going on. Pray for strength to bless that person while at the same time speaking truth in love. Pray against bitterness, rage, anger, slander and malice (Ephesians 4:31) and pray for the grace to forgive (Ephesians 4:32). Christ and the powers of heaven stand with you in that prayer.