Over the past year, I have made it a point to pray through the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18 almost daily. I usually do this as I am driving after dropping my children off at school. All goes well until I pray through the verse, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12 – NIV) No sooner, do I pray, “Lord, help me remember that people are not my enemy,” than some person makes an incredibly thoughtless or reckless move in traffic, bringing us all to a skidding halt. My ire rises and a curse forms on my lips; then I remember: this person is not my enemy. He or she may be a self-centered, thoughtless person, but he or she is not my enemy. The Devil is; the demons who are allied with him are. People, humans, are merely victims in this war between God and Satan. Most are willing victims, responsible for their actions, but they must be viewed as prisoners of war rather than as the enemy.
This is not a Matrix-style world, in which everyone is a potential enemy, as Agents can possess the space of an existing mind, turning them into a killing machine. Even if a person is possessed by the Devil, that person is still one of God’s highest creations and not my enemy, regardless of how that person sees me. This is something that the Church would do well to remember, especially in the west, as she engages in rhetoric and invective against godless doctrines. Too often we paint individuals, like Pope Francis, President Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Jeremy Corbyn, Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel, as the enemy. Or we view other groups, reprehensible though they may be, as the enemy. People are not our enemies! We need to engage them lovingly and caringly. This is usually not possible in the world of social media, where pithy responses, snarky one-liners, and straw-man arguments abound. Rather, we are called to find people, open ourselves to them, allowing us to be wounded, as Jesus allowed Himself to be wounded (see His words in Mt. 5:43-48), and work to draw them to the One who gives life; not through argumentative truth-telling (though telling the truth is absolutely necessary), but rather through love-filled, righteous lives and pouring ourselves out for those whom the true Enemy seeks to divide us from. They will know we are Christians by our love (Jn. 13:34-35), not by our invective. So, let us seek to actively love those people who appear to be our enemies and bring glory to God.