Yesterday afternoon I spent a good deal of time visiting with some friends of mine in a neighboring congregation. While engaged in conversation with the pater familias, I heard a story about an ongoing dispute over some land that had belonged to the gentleman’s grandfather and where there is an adverse possession claim being made on the land by someone else who is seeking to sell the property for various personal reasons. It was quite an interesting story but it is not my story to tell, at least not in detail. What struck me is that the story related to a concern that had been mulling about in my brain but which I had not written down yet, and that was a reflection on the idea that our enemies will always be with us, and that there is a distinct difference between the way that the Bible commands that we deal with our enemies and the way that our society deals with the question of enemies. I would like to examine that subject in a bit more detail today.
What is an enemy? I have a fairly broad definition of enemy, and one that includes several different layers, so it would be good to define this term as my meaning and use of the term may not be immediately obvious to others . I consider someone my enemy if they have hostility in their heart towards me for any reason, or if I have hostility in my heart towards them. Likewise, someone is an enemy if their worldviews or interests or partisan identity is opposed to my own, even if I am on generally friendly terms with them personally. Suffice it to say that by this definition I have a lot of enemies. To be sure, most of these people are enemies where the hostility is in a latent and not active state, but still, I spend a great deal of my life around people who are far more candid than I am about their political beliefs and perspectives and personal behavior that makes them an enemy of mine on such worldview and partisan grounds, even if they have no idea about the wide gulf in perspective and worldview that exists between us. And this has always been the case; I have never lived in a place where I felt as if my own particularly perspective was the dominant one among those around me. I have always been an outlier wherever I have been, and I have no expectation of things being any different in the future, so long as I draw breath in this fallen world.
So, when I say that our enemies we will have with us always, it is important to know what is meant. Even if there was no hostility in my heart towards anyone, which is generally the case, there are a lot of people who are enemies because we have different ways of life, and different moral and political viewpoints. Such enmity and disagreement is inevitable. I would say, though, that there is a marked difference between the two types of enemies. While I accept the inevitability of the second kind of enemy, especially given the moral and political and philosophical divides that pit people who are almost entirely alike against each other because interests or circumstances conspire to turn neighbors into enemies, like was the case with my friends and their neighbor with whom they have a property dispute, the first type of enemy is not an inevitable one. We may not able to prevent there being enemies because of a different perspective or mindset that is at odds with our own, but we can prevent ourselves from acting with hostility towards others by remembering that they are a human being and our neighbor to whom we owe love and respect regardless of whether we feel like giving it.
And it is here that the ways of God and the ways of man show themselves particularly in conflict. God does not really care, ultimately, what our feelings our in situations. If we are married to someone to whom we feel no wuv, we still are duty-bound to treat them with love and respect anyway. Likewise, God commands that parents be honored and authorities in general be respected whether or not they are good authorities or bad authorities or whether we like them or agree with them at all. Their office demands respect and honor apart from any personal worthiness or lack thereof that they possess. Our feelings about them ultimately do not matter to God. Our feeling do not justify the behavior that we would wish to show to them, and if our behavior is proper and correct, our feelings towards them are ultimately irrelevant as well.
And yet this is not how our world works at all. A great deal of our contemporary trouble comes from people being offended that people do not like them and agree with them. Other aspects of our trouble come from the way that we believe our feelings justify whatever behavior we wish to act on. Our obligations do not matter to us if our feelings have changed, and no barriers between ourselves and that which we are drawn to are to be tolerated. Yet our feelings are often unstable, as variable as the weather and scarcely better guides of the way that we are to live when our behavior can have lasting, even eternal consequences. And yet we disregard the need to behave honorably regardless of our feelings, and condemn people for their feelings when their behavior is correct and proper. No wonder our world is so screwed up here and now, since we give the highest importance to those matters that should be riding on the back of the bus and not driving it where we are supposed to go.
 See, for example: