For the past couple of days, the flags I have seen as I have driven around have been flying at half mast in honor of the lives of five police officers in Dallas who died as a result of a sniper’s fire. My own feelings are somewhat straightforward about the larger context that various acts of violence are involved in : no one should have to fear for their lives, anywhere, if they are doing their jobs or minding their own business. Period. Whether we are talking about a baby in a womb, a black man dealing with police officers, or those police offers going about their jobs, no one should have to fear for their lives or think that their lives are viewed as disposable or as inimical to the well-being of others. Whenever some lives are considered as if they do not matter, it is hard for anyone’s lives to matter because they become dependent on the feelings of others are not valued simply because they are.
Yet it is easy for us to see other people as enemies . Those who are addicted to their own pleasure easily see partners or children, born or unborn, as the enemies of their pleasure. If we have bad experiences with people, we tend to think of those who are like those we have had problems with in the past as enemies. If our problems have been with authority figures, then future authority figures had better beware, if our problems have been with men or women, brawny or brainy people, people of any religion or social or ethnic background, or anything else that distinguishes some people from others, then we will see other people like that as enemies by nature. One of the short cuts that people make is that like people will act in a like fashion. Since the most essential qualities of people are internal, and are not easy for us to recognize and understand, it is only to be expected that we should judge other people based on externals. This does not make it right, only that it is easy to understand why we and other people should behave so by instinct, only to be resisted consciously and with great difficulty.
It is greatly to be regretted that the King James translation, and those who follow it, were written for someone who was far more interested in the arcane subject of demonology than in making the subject matter plan to the reader. Ephesians 6:12 reads: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” These words, like principalities, powers, rules, and hosts of wickedness, all describe demons in various ways. Yet when we wield the sword of the spirit, or use our God-given gifts of reason and rhetoric, it is all too easy to forget that the real enemies are not people, but rather systems of darkness. Just as we are prone to judge other people based on exterior realities, or if we are inclined to look at deeper realities to disregard the exterior reality as being mere illusion, so too we are prone to either ignore or overemphasize any sort of spiritual reality within the course of our observation and experience.
How, then, do we fight? If we are all at war against darkness, it is likely that we will have a certain degree of passion against certain aspects of darkness far more easier than other aspects based on our own backgrounds and experiences. We may view the lesser of the evils in a given situation differently, and may struggle to live in such a way as to be worthy of the honor and glory that we seek. We must first fight, then, both with investigation and information gathering and with empathy. Admittedly, these are not the most obvious ways to fight. To the extent that we can build empathy for other people, including people who we might view with a great degree of native hostility or incomprehension, it becomes easier to live in such a way that we are able to turn those we dislike and who might disagree with us into friends, at long last and with immense effort. To the extent that we are well-informed , then we are able to act in ways that are sound and more likely to aid our own best interest as well as those around us.
As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:26: “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.” We may fight against the princes of the powers of the air, but we do not beat the air. We may have disagreements and drama with other people, but they are not ultimately our enemies. Much of the time they are brothers and sisters with the same heavenly Father and seeking to end up in the same destination, with us as company for all time. Are we prepared to deal with those who are like us and in God’s image but who are different enough from us that it is not easy to understand where they are coming from and what they are about? Are we prepared to put down our swords and cease to cut other people who we should be building up? We could all stand to do a better job in such matters; I know that is the case for me, after all.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: