We Are Not Enemies, But Friends

Although not nearly as well known as some of his other famous speeches [1], Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural is still notable, mainly for its sublime peroration [2], which reads as follows: “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” This moving closing statement, however sublime, did not succeed in convincing others of his peaceful intents to preserve the Union, and it was necessary to fight a long and bloody war in order to preserve the Union because passions had strained that union to such a degree that it could not be preserved any other way.

For a variety of reasons, many of them personal, I reflect often on divided houses [3], which is a common area of reflection in my family as a whole [4]. In particular, I would like to talk about one particular aspect of disunity that has long and deeply troubled me. It is my fervent belief that believers from all ages and times make up the bride of Christ, the Israel of God, which will marry Jesus Christ in heaven after the resurrection of the blessed. Yet it is also deeply clear that those who serve and believe and obey God are, at present, terribly divided. It would not trouble me if we were merely in different organizations that recognized our common belief systems but for one reason or another, because of a different focus or a different history had distinct smaller identities within the larger body of Christ. However, often there is intense hostility among brethren, whether it is because of interpersonal drama or congregational or organizational politics. I have had the cause to reflect upon and deeply regret my own intense and conspicuous role from time to time in these sorts of lamentable affairs. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we view as self-defense that we do not stop and reflect the wounds we are causing to others, and to the body of Christ as a whole, until we regret our actions after the fact when it is too late to undo what we have done or unsay what we have said or unwrite what we have written, and which has taken on a horrifying and totally unexpected life of its own.

When speaking about the sort of behavior that brethren should be known for in our relationships with others, Jesus Christ had this to say on his last night of life as a human in John 13:34-34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is a well-known scripture, but not a well-practiced one. The way by which we demonstrate credibility among others for our faith is through the love we have for one another. We are not to be recognized by our intellectual knowledge about the Bible, or our prophetic expertise in seeing the precise significance of world affairs, but rather in the love that we have for each other. I know that in my own life, I cannot think of any situations where I was in a situation of deep stress and I thought, “Maybe some extra intellect would help here,” or “I could really use some more head knowledge.” Where I have recognized a lack in technical expertise, I have either sought to obtain it for myself or sought others who had such expertise, and that is a straightforward task to accomplish. On the other hand, I have spent my entire life, from perhaps even the womb, dealing with the repercussions and consequences of my own relationships with others and with the spillover from the relationship problems of those around me. My own private anguish and suffering has been over a lack of heart knowledge rather than a lack of head knowledge, and often an inability to see and obtain the sorts of loving relationships around me that I have so deeply longed for.

No doubt these sentiments are felt by many. But what are we to do about them? If we all long for greater unity, for more love in our lives and in our relationships, how do we go about showing this love and achieving this unity? We do not seek an ecumenical movement of secret agendas and a superficial unity. Rather, we seek the unity of brethren serving Christ with our gifts and abilities, developing the talents that we have been given to serve God in even greater ways in His kingdom. Yet we cannot seem to get out of our own way. Our intentions, our dreams, our goals, our longings, are unfulfilled because we cannot communicate them effectively, and because everyone else (and not only we ourselves) is so damaged as a result of life in a wicked and harsh world that we cannot trust the kind words or actions of others because we see in them what we view as evidence of some kind of darker ulterior motive, the gratification of lusts for power or some other immoral nature. We may know in our heads that we will be recognized (or not recognized) as the people of God because of the love that we have and show for others, not in mere interior sentiment but in our words and actions, but we all struggle mightily to show this love while simultaneously protecting ourselves as best as we are able from the threats that are all around us. How are we ever to achieve the ends that we desire, even when those ends are peaceable and gentle and mild?

Not being a particular optimistic person by nature, I tend to think that it will take some sort of divine miracle to lead to the sort of unity that we wish for in our families, in our congregations, and among the body of Christ as a whole. Yet that miracle will have to take place among the broken jars [5] that we are. It does not appear to be the sort of miracle that is very conspicuous, for it is the sort of stitching together of broken hearts and minds and bodies and spirits that starts from the inside out, by which people who have no business showing any kind of wholeness or love or gentleness whatsoever because of the savage lives that they have lived turn out to be full of the love of God, love that spills out wherever they happen to be until it gradually works its good around them. The love of God makes itself recognized through the actions of all of us, for the damage that we have suffered has also come from the actions of all of us, until we are a united body, ready to, as a whole, wear the finest attire and join the family of God. It is no wonder that such a task would take so long and be so difficult, for it can only be accomplished by God above. It is a measure, though, of God’s immensely ambitious plans and tender compassion that He would strive to take such broken and deeply wounded people as we are and turn us into beings to help heal not only each other but the world as a whole through the love He has poured out into us. May His will be accomplished, however long it takes, and however long we have to suffer until we get there. In the meantime, we are not enemies, but friends, brothers and sisters in Christ who will spend an eternity in peace and harmony with each other. Why is it so hard to start that now?

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/book-review-lincoln-at-cooper-union-the-speech-that-made-abraham-lincoln-president/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/abraham-lincoln-democracy-despotism-and-the-two-trees/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/let-us-have-faith-that-right-makes-might/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/let-us-have-faith-that-right-makes-might-the-enduring-relevance-of-the-cooper-union-address/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/a-task-greater-than-washingtons-a-presidents-day-essay/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/i-am-loath-to-close/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/a-task-greater-than-washingtons-a-presidents-day-essay/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/the-better-angels-of-our-natures/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/an-introduction-to-satans-house-divided/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/crises-of-the-houses-divided/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/a-pox-on-both-of-your-houses/

[4] Most notably by my mother: http://myhousedivided.wordpress.com/

[5] I have long thought to write a blog entry of a sermonette I would like to give that deals with the “broken jar” as a metaphor for Christians whose lives have been marred by broken families, broken relationships, broken hearts, broken trust, broken health, and other related difficulties, but I have hesitated to write it both because I do not know if and when I will ever be allowed to give it and because the subject makes me weep every time I think about it.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to We Are Not Enemies, But Friends

  1. Pingback: Book Review: 21 Things The Devil Cannot Do | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Lincoln At Peoria | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Befriend | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Superpower | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: Your Enemies You Will Have With You Always | Edge Induced Cohesion

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