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September 3, 2016, 12:00 AM

Remember Who the Real Enemy Is

There is a scene in one of the Hunger Games movies where Katniss is ready to kill someone with her bow and arrow, and the man about to be killed shouts out, “Katniss! Remember who the real enemy is!”

You see, in this story, Katniss and others are being manipulated by powerful forces into fighting—and killing—one another. This serves to entertain the elite occupants of the Capital who watch the Hunger Games, but also to drive a wedge between potential allies so that they do not rebel against the government.

Well, perhaps this is a stretch—but I feel that we’ve come to a place where we need to “remember who the real enemy is.” Our nation has become so polarized that for any given issue about 50% of the people are against the other 50%. We have come to see each other as “enemies” when others believe things that we don’t believe.  

There is a book on marketing that suggests that this requires a new way to reach the public—if you want people to buy your product, you should no longer try to tell them what good thing you do, but tell them who you are against. So, for instance, if I say that “our church stands against gun violence”—that is a seemingly harmless statement that will attract people who are for gun control and repel those who are for a broad reading of the Second Amendment. Or if I say “our church is against abortion”—roughly fifty percent of people who read that will see that as offensive. And it goes on and on. Our polarized segments of society are getting farther and farther apart from one another, to the extent that many folks quickly see those who disagree about one issue or another as “enemies”. We have forgotten who the real enemy is.

There are spiritual forces that work to divide people and create hostilities and hatreds. The Bible calls these “powers and principalities.” In Ephesians 6:12 Paul reminds his readers that “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.” Our enemies are not other people!

This is not some random Biblical suggestion that Christians can ignore. The very center of the Gospel is our belief that Christ died for us—sinful people—out of love. Christ died not for the 50% of people that we agree with but also for the 50% we disagree with. Christ died for black people and white people; Syrians and Yemenis and French and Americans; Trump voters and Clinton voters; gay people and straight people and everyone in-between. We don’t have to agree with everyone but we must love everyone. As John Wesley put it, “we may not all think alike, but we must all love alike.”

We believe in the universality of Christ’s love. And the implication of that is clear: our love, too, must be that big and universal. The Apostle John states in 1 John 4:16-21:

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Tomorrow I will begin a month-long sermon series on reconciliation. We need to seek reconciliation with God, with families and friends, and with those we consider to be our enemies. Reconciliation is the heart of the Gospel, and we are called to continue the work of reconciliation in the world. I hope you will come to worship this week with open hearts and open minds!

See you in church!  We need you! ~Pastor Julia

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