This devotional was originally supposed to be on the subject of baptism, but in light of the recent events here in America, I have decided to follow our pastors’ lead and instead comment on what I believe to be an important aspect of the current race war going on in our country.
As I listened to David this morning, much of what he said really resonated with me, and I was reminded of a devotional I wrote in April titled Who is Our Real Enemy? Although I wrote it months ago, I feel it is very relevant in the midst of what is going on right now. So, with some minor changes, I would like to share with you some thoughts on who our real enemy is.
I once heard a story about a professor who gave his students a piece of paper and asked them to draw a picture of someone they hated. He then pinned the papers to the wall, gave everyone a dart, and told them to throw the darts at the pictures of the people they hated. After the students had fun filling the objects of their hate with dart holes, the professor took the papers down, gave them back to the students, and asked them to turn their papers over and look at the back. To the students’ surprise, on the back of their papers was the image of Jesus, covered with dart holes.
What do you think the students’ reaction was? What point do you think the professor was trying make to his students? I would assume it had something to do with this:
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created him…
— Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
The book of James, speaking about our tongue, says this:
Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!
— James 3:9-10 (NLT)
By the students’ willingness to throw darts at the pictures of the people they had drawn, I think it’s safe to assume that many of them probably thought of those people as their enemies. I’m sure they had quite a bit of fun piercing the image of their enemies. That is, until they learned that, in piercing the image of their enemies, they were also piercing the image of Jesus.
How many times have you cursed or assaulted the image of Jesus during the process of cursing or assaulting one of his image-bearers that you considered your enemy?
I write this not as an accuser, but as a fellow accused. For, even though I would like to think of myself as a person of mercy and grace, I know the truth is that I am a fellow assaulter of the image of Jesus within others.
Why do we find it so easy and ourselves so willing to assault fellow image-bearers of Jesus? Why do we feel such an urge to curse and assault those we view as our enemies? How are we ever to change our natural inclination from assaulting those people to loving them?
I want to propose a solution to this problem we all share, but I first want to define what I believe to be the source of the problem.
The source of the problem is not our behavior; it is actually our belief. Behavior always flows from belief. The real problem is not that we assault our enemies, for enemies are surely to be assaulted. Enemies are to be attacked and overcome. Enemies are to be annihilated. No. The problem is not with how we treat our enemies. The real problem is who we believe our enemies to be. The real problem is that we find ourselves believing that our fellow image-bearers are actually our enemies. The problem is our belief, not our behavior.
So, we naturally come to the following questions:
Question #1: Who are our enemies?
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
— Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
Our real enemies are not the fellow image-bearers of Jesus. Our real enemies are “evil spirits in heavenly places,” and their leader, the devil himself. The devil, or Satan, was an angel that was cast out of heaven for wanting to elevate himself to the level of God. He wanted God’s glory for himself. One third of the angels were cast out of heaven with him. To this day, Satan’s main goal is to steal God’s glory, and he accomplishes this when he deceives us into believing that our fellow image-bearers are our enemies and gets us to assault them. His sole purpose is to steal God’s glory, and our sole purpose as image-bearers of Jesus is to glorify God. These are more than just irreconcilable differences. This makes Satan and his fellow fallen angels our real enemies.
Question #2: If our fellow image-bearers are not our enemies, then what are they?
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe.
— 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT)
Our fellow image-bearers are not our enemies; they are fellow soldiers that have been captured and brainwashed by our enemies. Actually, since sin entered the world and all of mankind fell from God’s favor, every image-bearer has been born into captivity and brainwashed from childhood. There is not an image-bearer alive, including you and me, that wasn’t born into captivity. If you are free now and fighting on God’s side, it is because Jesus rescued you from the hands of the enemy and renewed your mind. If Jesus had not rescued you, you would still be brainwashed and fighting for the enemy — not because you were the enemy, but because you were born in captivity and raised to be a soldier in the enemy’s army.
In light of this fact, how are we to view those who have not yet been rescued from the enemy’s hands and had their minds renewed by Jesus? Are they to be viewed as our enemies? Or are they to be viewed with love and compassion because they are still under the tyrannical control of a heartless enemy that would have them live their lives fighting against their own brothers and sisters, against their own fellow image-bearers of God? Should we be so willing to fight and assault those who are still prisoners of their sins? Or should we turn all of our attention to fighting the real enemy, Satan, and his fellow fallen angels? Shouldn’t we be focusing on following Jesus Christ, our Commander-in-Chief, and letting him lead us in a frontal assault of our actual enemies as we dedicate our lives to rescuing our brothers and sisters who are POWs? America’s military forces believe in leaving no man behind. They will give their lives in an attempt to free fellow soldiers captured by the enemy. Should Jesus’ military forces do any less?
Remember, behavior always flows from belief. What we need more than anything right now is to look at our situation and see other people through the eyes of God. Only when we see as God sees will we behave as God behaves.
Now, I realize how easy it is for one race to see another race as enemies, or for families of victims to see the perpetrators as enemies. This way of thinking comes naturally for us, because we were all born into captivity and brainwashed by Satan from childhood. But if Jesus has rescued you, renewed your heart and mind, and shown you that Satan and his fallen angels are our real enemies, how can you ever again view your fellow image-bearers as enemies?
When you look at another person, no matter what they have done or how evil their behavior, you are looking at a person that God created in his image, to be his child. I am not saying that we are to excuse people of the earthly consequences of their behavior. God has tasked government with the job of making sure people reap what they sow. I believe all humans should reap the earthly consequences of their behavior. But I don’t ever want to see someone have to reap the eternal consequences of their behavior. Jesus died on the cross to bear the eternal consequences of every person that would ever put their trust in him as Savior. We can fully support someone bearing the earthly consequences of their behavior while, at the same time, standing in the gap and begging God to save them and deliver them from the eternal consequences. We can put them in prison for murder and then go to that prison to take them the love and truth of Jesus that can set them free from the prison of sin and eternal death. There is no conflict there. That is how we rescue our brothers and sisters from the enemy and bring them home to God.
If you are a child of God, he is calling you to wage war on the real enemy and help him rescue his captured children. And our weapons are not hate and lies. Those are the weapons of the enemy. Our weapons are love and the truth that sets men free. So, armed with a renewed heart and mind, and with love and God’s truth, join Jesus in fighting the real enemy and rescuing prisoners of war until God calls you home.
…you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.
— James 5:20 (NLT)