We Are Not Enemies
The Word of the Lord from 2 Corinthians 10:1-7 (NRSV):
I myself, Paul, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I ask that when I am present I need not show boldness by daring to oppose those who think we are acting according to human standards. Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. We are ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes. If you are confident that you belong to Christ, remind yourself of this, that just as you belong to Christ, so also do we.
Even when we pray for God to help us love someone, are we not really praying for God to change that person and make him or her easier to love? But what if I am the one in need of a change?
This Scripture passage finds Paul in the midst of defending his ministry to the Corinthians. There is a lot of information about what might have caused Paul to write to them in this manner, but no matter what the problem is, one thing is clear: Paul is responding to an argument about worldly culture in the church. He is talking about human standards, the difference between fleshly warfare and spiritual warfare, and obstacles that stand in the way of the knowledge of God. It sounds like some of the arguments he is warring against are pretty similar to the core essence of arguments that are going on right now.
Why do I make that comparison? I make this comparison because I know that some of the things that are on the forefront of my mind are also on the forefront of the minds of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and we don’t all agree. We all have our own ideas of what a Christian should be like. In his commentary, Dr. Craig Keener talks about this passage and states that people were likely speaking out against Paul because he did not fit their idea of what a good leader and speaker should be like. He doesn’t meet their expectations, so they wish to discount his ministry altogether. Is that not what we are doing to one another so often in the church? Name-calling, hate mongering, treating fruitful ministries as if they are completely illegitimate solely on the basis of a doctrinal or theological disagreement or two?
Now, that is not to say that theology and doctrine are not important. They are absolutely critical, and Paul thought so, too. He spent a lot of time talking about them in his letters. But, there is something in our passage today that is also absolutely critical. Take a look at verse 7 again. I’m going to read it. “Look at what is before your eyes. If you are confident that you belong to Christ, remind yourself of this, that just as you belong to Christ, so also do we.” What is Paul saying here? He is saying that it is essential to remember, even when we disagree, that we all belong to Christ. We can’t discount entire ministries on the basis of disagreement, and we certainly cannot discount each other and treat one another like the enemy.
That leads me to this point – When we treat each other as enemies, the real enemy of our souls wins. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” The real enemy of our souls wants us to see flesh and blood people as our enemies, because if we are fighting each other, we are not fighting him. Let’s treat each other as brothers and sisters who can come and reason together, and focus our warfare on the real enemy.