Today, I’m going to break a rule I have which is not to put up a post with a lot of things I didn’t write in it. But today, I’m going to give you Psalm 43 in its entirety.
Give sentence with me, O God, and defend my cause against the ungodly people; O deliver me from the deceitful and wicked man.
For thou art the God of my strength; why hast thou put me from thee? and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresseth me?
O send out thy light and thy truth, that they may lead me, and bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy dwelling;
And that I may go unto the altar of God, even unto the God of my joy and gladness; and upon the harp will I give thanks unto thee, O God, my God.
Why art thou so heavy, O my soul? and why art thou so disquieted within me?
O put thy trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks, which is the help of my countenance, and my God.
I love this psalm. It is a short, sweet psalm with a message of hope and safety found in God. That reference to God’s light and truth is for me the most powerful idea of God. I am a person who never wants to stop learning. Besides honing my craft in writing for work and blogging, I am also taking whatever courses I can to learn more about any topic, like history or logic, and I am constantly in the library getting more books to learn even more. The idea of God’s light and truth being in that search for knowledge has been a comfort to me.
But what about the talk of enemies? The psalmist is asking for help and defense from enemies who are oppressing him. How do we as modern Christians living in first world countries (or at least most of us as far as I know) understand the concept of enemies? How do we deal with it in our everyday, relatively safe and mundane lives?
I have to admit that I struggle with this. I do not like to see anyone as so diametrically opposed to myself and my beliefs that we can never see eye-to-eye on anything. I believe that people for the most part do things out of a belief in what is good and that belief is common ground for us all to meet on. People in this day and age don’t have archenemies. This is not the Cold War or the Crusades in which the enemy could be defined in moral terms of good v. bad. And even then, I have a hard time seeing “enemies” as more than people gathered into a conflict that they may or may not actually want to be in. The concept of who is our enemy is hard to pin down these days.
That’s a sort of global idea of enemies, but there are personal ideas as well in our normal lives. I don’t get out much so I don’t have anyone who bugs me or hates me or actively attacks me. People who don’t like me tend to just ignore me because I’m far away and not very visible. There’s no one in my life who actively tries to hamper my progress in anything. Other people may have a different experience, especially if they work outside of the home or are active in things that involve more facetime than I have. But does that actually make them enemies with all the negative connotations it has?
Who is my neighbor?
I would argue that the answer to this question is found in the concept of who our neighbors are. Jesus taught us that everyone is our neighbor. That changes not only our relationship with the world, but who can actually be our enemies. If everyone is our neighbor, how can they be our enemies?
I’m not going to argue over that concept nor am I going to offer my opinion on the answer to that question. Perhaps it’s already easy to see what I might think.
But this I will do: instead of localizing the concept of “enemy” on to persons, it might be helpful in our lives to include any thing, event, or obstacle that creates distance between us and God. For me, my enemies include sloth and gluttony and doubt and fear and misanthropy and despondency and a whole host of others. These are the enemies that I struggle with every day that I ask God to help me fight against.
It’s an idea I’ve been playing with for a long time. It stems from a personal belief I have that making other people into an enemy is not only bad for both of us, but is contrary to what Jesus taught. It’s an idea in development. It’s not a doctrine I live my life by. But it has affected my life in good ways so far. Perhaps it won’t work for everyone. But everyone can get some good out of considering who their neighbor is and what enemy means to them. And for that, I will break all my rules about what goes in a post.