Perhaps the saddest truism about life is that nations, sports teams and individuals accomplish more and perform at their best when faced with an enemy. The spectre of looming threat, real or imagined, drives achievement and progress.
I started thinking about this seriously in the late 1980s when the Berlin Wall–and Communism itself–collapsed. Until that point I had been raised to see Communism as the great threat to our way of life. I went into Political Science to combat that threat and suddenly…it was gone. Luckily for politicians–in a sick and sad way–the terrorists came along. Bomb-wearing fanatics make a much more picturesque enemy than The Economy and Global Warming.
Even in our personal lives we seem to need enemies to thrive. As I told one friend last week the saddest among us are those for whom their greatest enemy is themselves. While the quest to better oneself is healthy it is appallingly sad if your motivation is self-hatred. I know a lot of people like that. I know a lot of diets built around that principle. And when you hate yourself you are in contest with the greatest ally you’ve ever been given. Queerly, you are more alone in that sort of war than in any other.
Over the years I’ve had all sorts of enemies. I won’t name names, but I will say that in addition to Communists and Myself I’ve warred mentally and emotionally with people I know very well and people I know very little. Sometimes my choice of enemy has been very productive and helpful to myself and others. Other times, more often than not, it’s been futile and destructive.
I’ve prayed about this a lot lately. I’ve noticed myself being slowly fractured by my impulse to see certain people or certain diseases as the thing fighting me, holding me back. A few weeks ago I remembered that verse which talks about how we as Christians are to struggle
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.
Essentially, once we are committed to the cause of following Jesus, we are to have only the Evil ones as our enemy. Not flesh and blood=not people. Of course this makes perfect sense. How can you really exhibit Grace to those you have made your enemy? You can’t, plain and simple.
As usual, I’m not perfect. I still find myself gritting my teeth when the Wellness Living Coach coopts my doctor’s appointment with her startling lack of insight. I still get mad at myself when I don’t get as much done in a day as I wanted and I still hate my constellation of illnesses when I spend the day in pain. But it does help to strive, with the help of the Spirit, toward that place where I can direct my efforts against darkness instead of against those for whom Grace is offered.