Living in the Land of the Enemy

By Tom Gilson Published on April 5, 2024

Joe Biden’s support for “Trangender Day of Visibility” on Easter Sunday was a sharp slap in the face of Christ and Christianity. He might as well have called Christians “enemies of the land.” I’m sure he sees us as enemies (politically if not officially). His party has been telling us that in so many words for years now.

This raises a disturbing yet unavoidable question for believers: Does that make Biden our enemy, too? What about other progressives, especially their leaders, who stand just as strongly against our beliefs and values? Are they our enemies, too?

For many of us, our first answer is likely to be, “No, they can’t be our enemies! Christ calls us to love our neighbors, not treat them as enemies!” It’s an understandable reaction, but it does no good answering the question. Maybe you’ve already noticed the contradiction it contains. If not, we’ll come back to it shortly.

Like it or not, the reality is that America, this land of peace and safety and freedom, has become a place of strife and contention, a battleground where we have been declared to be enemies of the state.

We didn’t choose it to be this way. We didn’t change; our opponents did. We were never the aggressors, but rather defenders of what Americans have always held to be good and valuable. For all our flaws (and we have more than enough of them), this fight is not our fault.

We are not used to this, and we don’t like to think about it. But it’s reality, so we must.

Enemies in the Old Testament

We Christians may not like talking about enemies, but the Bible has no such qualms. Old Testament history is largely military history. The main theme in the Book of Psalms is praise and worship of God, as we all know, but second place goes to praying about and against enemies. Well over half of the psalms explicitly mention enemies (or “foes,” or “adversaries”). Fully one-fifth of the psalms include specific prayers for God to defeat or even destroy the enemy.

That’s rough stuff for New Testament believers. It’s easy enough pray along with the psalms that ask God to protect us from our enemies, and those that praise God for doing so. Praying God will destroy our enemies is different.

Are They Really Our Enemies?

It’s especially different if we’re not sure we should even call them our enemies. Such a harsh word — can we really put that label on anyone? We have to, actually. Jesus told us to love our enemies. How can we obey Him in that if we won’t let ourselves believe we have any?

From that alone it’s clear enough: We have enemies, and it’s okay to say so. We don’t need to go out and make enemies, but if someone else does the making, then they’re made. So yes, we do have enemies. They are many, and they are powerful. They live among us and we among them. We live as enemies in the land, and we have enemies in the land as well.

I am only asking that we recognize the new reality: We have enemies — spiritual enemies, that is — right here in America. They are many, and they are powerful.

We need to pause on that point, and let it sink in. This is not the America my generation grew up in, where Christians were the good guys. Not everyone agreed with our theology, but they loved our ethics and values. Every Christian knows that’s changed, but some are slow to see just how completely upside down it’s been flipped.

The first thing we need to know about enemies, then, is that like it or not, we have them.

Who Is Our Enemy?

The lawyer in Luke 11 asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan, and now we all know that our neighbor is pretty much anyone we encounter, anyone to whom we can show love. I wonder how He would have answered, “Who is my enemy?” It would have been a fair question, once He’d given His command to love our enemies.

Paul’s answer in one place is that our enemy is spiritual: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Peter paints a vivid picture of the same teaching: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Elsewhere this spiritual enemy appears in the form of ideas and beliefs that are opposed to the truth of God:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete (2 Cor. 10:3-6).

But we cannot think our opposition comes only from the invisible realm. “Arguments and lofty opinions” can’t be “raised against the knowledge of God” unless someone raises them here on Earth. Jesus had enemies who not only opposed Him but killed Him. Revelation 6:9-10 speaks of martyrs in heaven crying out “with a loud voice,” asking, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

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We have enemies: enemies in the spiritual realm, enemy ideologies, and enemies who are flesh-and-blood people. Christ calls us to love our enemies (meaning, of course, the humans we live among). The best prayer we can pray for them is that they would come to Christ in repentance and conversion. It helps if we remember that we, too, were once enemies of God (Romans 5:6-11), desperately needing that same grace for our own conversion.

Some of the prayers in the Psalms are for enemies to be destroyed. We need not pray that way now: God has already assured us He will take care of that. The saints in Revelation 6 weren’t begging God to avenge their blood. They were only asking God how long it would take before He did.

Gear Up!

My point here is simple. In this short column I cannot hope to answer great questions about how we should love our enemies, or how we should fight them when the fight is called for. I only ask that we recognize the new reality: We have enemies — spiritual enemies, that is — right here in America. They are many, and they are powerful.

We didn’t ask for the fight we’re in, and we didn’t start it. Nevertheless it is a fight. It is absolutely biblical to view it that way. If once you thought there was a time for delicate demurrals, saying, “Oh, I don’t fight, I’m a Christian,” you must shed that thought, for this is not that time.

These are uncomfortable thoughts. I do not expect anyone to like them. But reality is what it is. We Christians in the Western world are in a battle like we’ve never seen before. We don’t have to like it, but we’d better start getting used to it so we can gear up for it, because the fight is already upon us.

We have a lot to learn, especially how to really love our enemies even as we oppose what they stand for. We have much to study, so we can speak truth in the face of lies. We have a lot to pray about, so we can see God win the victory and give Him the honor for it.

 

Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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