We live in divisive times. It seems like battle lines are drawn along every form of differentiation possible. People have long fallen into “us vs. them” attitudes towards other nationalities or ethnicities, and politics and religion have often been points of conflict between different groups, and even among those who are otherwise friends. But it seems like every single issue that comes up these days is a source of friendship-breaking, hate-inspiring animosity between people. Pick almost any issue in the marketplace of ideas and you can find people ready to go to war over it. Some of the language used about the opposing side in a debate gets pretty crazy. But in this “mad, mad, mad, mad world”, the love of God and its effects on us stand out in most dramatic contrast. For God creates family out of enemies. What do I mean by that? Let work through that today.
- Firstly, God turns former enemies into brothers and sisters. I am reminded of Corrie ten Boom telling the story of visiting a church in Munich in 1947 and meeting one of the former prison guards from the Ravenbrück concentration camp where she’d watched her sister die. After the war, he’d repented of his sin and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He’d received God’s forgiveness and was now standing in front of her asking for her forgiveness. This former enemy was now “a new creation” and a brother in Christ [2Cor 5:17]. Not only are we famously told to love our neighbors, but we are even to love our enemies and pray for them [Mt 5:44, Ro 12:14]. Both Jesus and Stephen, the first Christian martyr, exemplified this when they prayed for their enemies while being executed [Lk 23:34, Ac 7:60]. Christians have a good reason to reconcile with their enemies, for the Bible tells us that we are all created in the image of God, and all equally human with inalienable rights because of our Creator [Gen 1:27]. If my enemies are equally human, and their lives are valuable to the God who created both of us, then I should make it my mission to be at peace with all and only harm someone else as a last resort (i.e. self-defense, defense of an innocent against malicious attack, etc).
- Secondly, as a Christian, I have more in common with any other Christian on the planet then I do with my closest political, economic, or cultural ally if they are non-Christian. Look at Paul’s list of people he thanked in Romans 16: men and women, high-ranking government officials and slaves, Jews and gentiles. As the old saying goes, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” That doesn’t mean that I or a fellow Christian can’t be wrong about something and correction be warranted, but we are to “speak the truth in love”. [Eph 4:15,25]
- Thirdly, God makes His family out of His former enemies. While we are often enemies on a horizontal plane with our fellow humans, we still manage to form our little alliances and cliques. But if there is one thing humanity has been united in over the millennia, it has been our vertical opposition to God’s sovereign rule over us. We have all been enemies of God [Rom 5:10,8:7-8, Col 1:21-22], and it is only by God’s gracious initiative that we even can turn to Him [Jn 6:44, Eph 2:1-9]. Since we were once all enemies of God before He saved us, there is no basis for looking down on anyone else. Jonathan Edwards put it this way:
“If we are all naturally God’s enemies, hence we may learn what a spirit it becomes us as Christians to possess towards our enemies. Though we are enemies to God, yet we hope that God has loved us, that Christ has died for us, that God has forgiven or will forgive us; and will do us good, and bestow infinite mercies and blessings upon us, so as to make us happy for ever. All this mercy we hope has been, or will be, exercised towards us. Certainly then, it will not become us to be bitter in our spirits against those that are enemies to us, and have injured and ill treated us; and though they have yet an ill spirit towards us. Seeing we depend so much on God’s forgiving us, though enemies, we should exercise a spirit of forgiveness towards our enemies.”[1, Eph 4:32]
Enemies of God and enemies with each other, we say we seek unity and peace while dividing over the smallest things. Yet God works miracles in human hearts to reconcile us both to Him and to each other in ways impossible in our fallen, yet pathetically prideful, humanity. And one day, we will see “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” worshiping God before His throne [Rev 7:9], people who should’ve been enemies on earth, but who have been adopted into God’s family, healed of hate, and united together forever. That’s a beautiful family reunion right there. Are you part of that family? Do you want to be?
 See Jonathan Edwards, “Discourse on How Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies” (1736), for a lengthy treatment of man’s natural enmity toward God.