Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 3

Who is my enemy?


I have always had a problem with the idea of an enemy. It is such a strong word, involving such deep emotion, and containing such intimate expectations. The etymology of the word in English is interesting. It derives itself from Latin and French, rather ironic really, since the English have fought both and killed Italians and the French over the centuries in war.

The meaning of the word ‘enemy.’

One meaning is someone who is not a friend, which seems rather extreme to say the least. Does it mean if you end friendship with someone, they become your enemy? Other definitions assert a more demonic perspective, that an enemy is someone who is an adversary, or even the Devil.

None of these European attempts at trying to come to terms with hatred have been very satisfactory. They suggest a nightmarish world of distrust, suspicion, and caution. It is perhaps apt in a way, describing a West run by church states that were killing people down through the centuries and imposing their twisted and ungodly versions of Christianity on those who refused to conform. The list of the enemies of the church was a mile long and it is miracle anyone survived.

What does the Bible say?

In the New Testament, in Matthew 5: 44, the word ‘enemy’ in Greek means an adversary, ‘echthros.’ Strong’s Concordance says that it is a person resolved to inflict harm, and someone with whom reconciliation is impossible, someone with whom a state of hostility exists.

An enemy is someone you want to kill, destroy, undermine, or ignore. Who do you want to kill today? Anyone? Who do you want to destroy? The Left? Trump supporters? Muslims? Migrants? The problem of the enemy is a deep and intimate struggle connected with who we are as people, made in the image of God.

The Bible paints no rosy, idealistic fiction about our true heart, motives, and attitudes. Cain killed his brother Abel, his brother, his own flesh, and blood. Joseph’s brothers despised him and saw him as their enemy, and they sold him into slavery.  Jesus confronted this question head on because the enemies of many in that first century were numerous.

Factionalism, strife, sectarianism, these were the banners the Jewish people held high, even before we get to the issue of Roman occupation. Love your enemies, said Jesus, and do good to those who persecute you.

The enemies of the church

The church which fights against Christianity in every age, pays lip service to the good news of Jesus Christ and then turns around and promotes hatred, bigotry, and sectarianism. The churches are bastions of hate, memorials to bigotry, and testaments to sectarianism.

Churches spend most of them time hating not those who have no faith, but those who have faith, but not the right sort of faith, not the faith expected or desired, and not the faith that is good enough. Hatred, not love, is the language of most Christians today and that is why churches are collapsing, it is why denominations are dying, it is why chapels are closing. Love your enemies, said Jesus, but the response of the church is a middle finger to the heavens.

Who does the church hate today? Well, the usual suspects: Muslims, migrants, poor people, gay and lesbian people, transgender people, the list goes on. Pulpits are no longer where the good news is preached, but they are training grounds for religious terrorism, many religious schools are not places when children are taught, but where kids are indoctrinated, and I am sorry, but God notices it all, and he is not on your side.

God doesn’t take sides in our Culture War. He is not a Liberal Party supporter, nor does he vote for Donald Trump, nor is Christ an American or an Australian. God is God and this God tells us to love our enemies. It means you don’t have any enemies.

Enemies of the nation

Recently, Australia celebrated what they call ANZAC Day, a controversial Memorial Day for all soldiers who served and who serve in war and during peacetime. Australia usually does the bidding of two nations: England and America.

In the early 1870s, the colony of New South Wales had no army, and no military presence from England. They left and wanted the colony to raise its own militia, which for some reason, they found difficult to do. After twenty years of dithering and paranoia, the colonies sent their first soldiers abroad to fight in the Sudan, on the other side of the world, then the Boer War, then the Great War, and so on.

ANZAC Day is not a Christian festival. In fact, there is nothing Christian about it. It is an ideological event to brainwash a population to love war, to enjoy fighting and to promote the next war. It is not bad as other nations. All the Australians do is march down the street, play two-up and then go to the pub.

In other nations, they bring out of the tanks, the nukes, the soldiers, and march proudly down the street, showing their real power. Australia has no real power in the world, it is a minor player in world affairs, with a really large mouth, and tiny ears, and is really happy that America has promised eternal protection which means that Australia does not really need to bother getting to know other nations in the Asia Pacific.

Which side does God take in war?

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being a soldier, it is an honorable profession as far as God is concerned. Serving one’s nation always is. But God doesn’t take sides in war. As I explained in more detail in my book ‘Is Russia Our Enemy?’ God honors the day, and his purposes are hidden from our sight.  

If Christians want to support anything, they ought to support those who came home and the families of those who do not. It is also a disgrace that churches associate themselves with ANZAC Day, applying the privileges and benefits of faith to those who have none. I have heard some disgraceful talks at ANZAC Day over the years. Many priests, pastors and ministers cannot tell the difference between their flag and their faith.

I was asked to give an ANZAC Day address a few years ago when I served as a priest, and I was happy to do it as long as they realized that I would talk about Jesus Christ and not sing their song of patriotism and war. They loved it and asked me to come back the next year and on November 11.  In fact, I discovered many Christians in their ranks except that all of them had been cast out of the church for one reason or another, and all that was left in the church was a tiny, angry group of people who hated each other and God most of all.

The enemies of God

This is the pattern across the land. Christians will talk about whom they hate faster than they will tell you about Jesus Christ. We are told to encourage each other daily, and the greatest encouragement we can have, is talking about the Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is the antidote to all our enmities, all our hatreds, and all our bitterness. Love your enemies, says Jesus to us all today, love them as I have loved you. As Paul says, ‘while you were the enemies of God, Jesus died for you (Romans 5: 10). How much more ought we to resist the temptation to see other people as our enemy?

God takes enmity away

An enemy is a way of talking about a person before the arrival of God on the scene, for it is impossible to see that anything is impossible for God, and it is impossible for God to fail. All things are possible for God, says the Bible.

The true direction of enmity is not between those made in God’s image, but between people and God, for it is God whose light shines in the hearts of people and this light is so pure, so revealing, so loving and so true that it upsets all our priorities, all our dreams, and all our hopes, for it is God saying to us, put them aside, leave them alone, let them be, and come and follow me, and we don’t like a distraction, and we don’t like being forced to change and we don’t like being told what to do, but this is God, this is the God who speaks, this is the God who listens and this is the God who acts to bring us home.

This is the God who proved his love by dying for those with whom there was only enmity, this is the God who proved his love by dying in our place, in our stead, on the cross, this is the God who said, no, this one is not beyond my love, this one is not beyond my mercy and this one is not to be forgotten. Love your enemies because God loved us.

Remember, freedom matters today, because you matter to God.

Michael J. Sutton

1 Comment

  1. Joan Sutton says:

    Thank you for the truths you have presented. Yes indeed God doesn’t take sides in our culture wars.

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