Who Is My Enemy?

by Kenneth Ryland


This article is reprinted from The Sabbath Sentinel, May-June 2001

"Let the bloodletting continue!" As Christians that should be our announcement to the world.

One of the amazing characteristics of the Christian Church of the twenty-first century is that we are unable to define our enemies. But worse yet, we cannot even seem to identify our friends. It is a constant source of bewilderment to me to see how Christian people who were the best of friends one day can accuse each other of being "agents of the devil" the next. I have been a Christian for over 35 years and could write volumes on the abuse that Christians suffer at the hands of their brethren. The devil has little to do these days because Christians are doing all his work for him. Occasionally he may have to step in and tidy up a few "loose ends" after brother has skewered brother, but essentially, he allows us to do his work for him &emdash; and we seem more than willing to do all the devil's work "in the name of the Lord."

As a Sabbath-keeper I have belonged to groups that have made sport of Sunday-keepers over their lack of "knowledge of the Truth" about the Sabbath. I have also been shunned by Sunday-keeping "friends" who were horrified when they discovered that I attend church on Saturday and refused even to sit down as friend with friend to discuss the matter &emdash; presumably for fear that they might be contaminated by the devil himself. After all, how could I "turn from grace" back to the law?

In the world of Sunday-keeping Christians many anti-rapturists absolutely detest the rapturists. Some say that if you speak in tongues, you are of the devil; others contend that if you don't, you are of the devil. Then there are the once-saved-always-saved Calvinists against the Arminian-Wesleyan groups. If there is any pretext for division, those who call themselves Christians will find it.

Of course, we cannot overlook the horrifying atrocities that some Sabbath-keepers have committed against other Sabbath-keepers. Families have been ripped apart, jobs lost, fortunes squandered, and lives simply burnt up and thrown away like spent matches.

Chances are, I have just described a situation that you have either gone through or one of which you have first-hand knowledge. In reality, this kind of behavior among Christians is often the rule rather than the exception.

I'm sure that most reading this article will already have begun replaying in their minds some similar, unpleasant experience in their Christian walk. As you muse on this, please let these simple words of our Lord ring in your thoughts:

"By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another."(John 13:35)

My question to you is, do men, i.e., the people around us, know that we are the disciples of Christ? Is it obvious to the unchurched? And, just how important is it to you that the people around you know that you are His disciple? If a non-Christian neighbor wanted to know about Christ, would he or she come to you? I tend to think that if we really considered it important that the unregenerate masses around us saw Christ in us, we would not try so hard to hide His light in us.

Francis Schaeffer Revisited

Recently I pulled one of Francis Schaeffer's books off the shelf for a reread. Francis Schaeffer was a Christian philosopher who died in the late 1980's. The book was titled The Great Evangelical Disaster, written in 1984. Since I had not picked the book up in many years, I thought I would read it over to see whether I could still glean something out of it and to see what relevance it had for today. What struck me was not that the book was now passé, but rather, how much of its relevance I had missed.

However, my purpose in writing this article is not to review Dr. Schaeffer's book, but to focus on a couple of salient points he makes in the book's last chapter, which is titled, "The Mark of the Christian." What he writes is very much to the point of understanding how we are to live our Christian faith before a watching world.

Dr. Shaeffer points out that Jesus left us one mark by which the world would know His disciples. Further, Jesus made it very clear that the world has a right to judge whether He truly came from the Father by using this measuring stick. The truth of these two statements is contained in Jesus' words in John (13:35), "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another," and "... that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:21)

Our oneness with other believers which grows out of our love and respect for our spiritual brothers and sisters is the measure by which we are judged. If the Christian faith is true, it will display itself to the world in the love that Christians have for each other. Or, to put it in the negative, if you and I treat each other with contempt, the unconverted around us have a right to conclude that Jesus was not sent by the Father, i.e., that Christianity is a sham. Can you not see how important it is for brethren to dwell in peace with each other!?

The story of the Good Samaritan teaches us that all men are our neighbors, and that as Jesus' followers we are to do good to all men. "Love your neighbor as yourself." Even more so should we seek to do good to those of "the household of faith." Yet, it is in this very arena of life that we seem to do our worst work. "With the same tongue we bless God and curse men," as the apostle James puts it. Let there be a disagreement in the church over doctrine, or the building fund, or over who will be deacon, and you will see some of the most venomous hatred imaginable between people who profess the name of Christ before the watching world. I do believe that were it not for our need to keep up the front of a charitable face before others in the church, some might resort to violence or even murder in order to maintain their control or position in the congregation. Do I exaggerate? No, not at all! It's just that we are loathe to admit the truth &emdash; even though we profess to live by the truth.

A Change of Scene

Let me describe a magazine cover that I am looking at right now. An elderly woman lying on her back in a hospital bed, tightly and affectionately clutches the hand of a young man who is leaning over her. An IV tube runs down from above her to her left side under the covers. Superimposed over the lower left-hand corner of the picture is a blood-stained Bible opened to 2 Corinthians chapter 4. In spite of the smudges of blood on the page, visible are circles drawn around verses 7, 8, and 9.

This woman and several others died from a bomb blast that destroyed their church in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. This former republic of the Soviet Union is mainly Muslim and also very hostile to anyone who claims Christ as Lord. Over the past several years literally thousands of Christians of all stripes have fled the country to find refuge in Russia and the Ukraine. Many have had to leave their homes and all their worldly possessions behind in order to save their lives. Unfortunately, not all have been able to leave. Those left behind have been easy targets in the crosshairs of radical Muslims who seek to wipe out the name of Christ from the entire earth.

In case you have not had a chance to look up the verses in 2 Corinthians 4 that the dying woman had circled, let me quote verses 7 through 9: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." Let me add verses 10 and 12 to her reading: "&emdash; always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body... So then death is working in us, but life in you."

For us in the Western world there are some questions we need to ask ourselves. First, to the Muslims who planted the explosives in the church, did it make any difference whether the Christians were Sabbath-keepers or Sunday-keepers? Did the Muslims know whether the Christians were Calvinists or Arminians? Did the Muslims care whether these Christians spoke in tongues or not? What was so objectionable about these humble Christians in Tajikistan that Muslims would try to kill them all? It was the name of Christ. They did not want the name of Christ proclaimed in their midst, and everyone who entered that church in Dushanbe was a walking display of allegiance to Christ. In such a darkened culture as that of Tajikistan it was as if these people were carrying around neon signs flashing the name of Christ wherever they went. Our faith in the face of death should be so bright!

It's All about Priorities

As a Sabbath-keeper I cannot diminish the importance of keeping the Ten Commandments. Until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle will pass from the law of God (Matthew 5:17). The holy, royal law of God remains as long as heaven and earth remain. But, as a Sabbath-keeper neither should it escape my attention that the Sabbath along with the Holy Days are shadows of Christ (Colossians 2:17). He is the One, the substance, that casts the shadow. When we observe His shadow in the Sabbath, we are drawn to Him because He is the light source that casts the shadow. The shadow is a constant reminder, a reflection, of who He is. But, our faith is not in the shadow that reflects His glory; our faith is in Him.

I tend to think that most of our quarrelling is due to allowing our attention to be drawn away from our Savior to the things that we associate with Him, whether that be our Sabbath-keeping, our once-saved-always-saved doctrine, our deaconship, our meeting place, and a thousand other things that are not Christ.

There is a lot of room for diversity in our relationship with Christ and the manner in which that diversity is acted out in worship. This only indicates that God created as many personalities and temperaments in man as there are stars in the heavens. Yet, as diverse as the cosmos is, there is not one part of the created physical Universe that is out of harmony with the will of its Creator &emdash; that is, except man himself. That is because each human being must voluntarily submit his will to that of his Creator, and we are not much inclined to do that. In fact, often those who suppose themselves to be most intimate with the God of the Universe also suppose they know His mind better than anyone else and need to be in charge of the Lord's people in order to guarantee that all will work according to the divine will, which they are sure they know best. It is this kind of hubris that quickly sets us at war with our friends and causes us to forget the identity of our real enemies.

I would challenge the reader to give careful study to the words of the apostle Paul when he admonished the Christians in Rome not to judge another man's servant. The passage is contained in Romans 14:4 "Who are you to judge another man's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." Yes, each of us is ultimately answerable to Christ alone, and He alone is qualified to judge whether someone is in His body or not. While it is true that each of us has the option of deciding where and with whom we will worship, we have no right to try to determine who stands or falls before the Lord.

By What Standard?

There are two bedrock beliefs (convictions, if you will) that form the foundation of Christianity, and it is these beliefs that separate us from "the world," and from "the worldly Christian." First, we believe that the Jesus who claimed to be the Son of God and the sacrifice for all the sins of all mankind came at a specific time and place in history and fulfilled all that the prophets of God said about Him. Second, we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and is the only ultimately genuine standard of Truth and behavior for all mankind in all ages. Further, we believe that the Bible is true not just in its religious statements, but in its statements concerning history, politics, government, community life, marriage, sexual behavior, child rearing, and all other matters concerning human behavior and our physical universe. I'm sure that every reader could come up with his own set of "essential beliefs of Christianity," but the two mentioned above would always be included.

Too often we make enemies of others who are as deeply convicted as we are to the truth of the Bible and the saving work of Christ. We fail to recognize the fact that all Christians, even those we do not like, are locked in life-or-death struggle against a humanistic way of thinking that even now threatens to engulf the hearts and minds of our entire culture. Our one-time Christianized Western culture has been turned on its head, and it seems that many Christians have faced the evidence of our decadence with a shrug, hardly even noticing that they would be completely horrified by the ideas and events of today if they had seen them 30 or even 20 years ago.

The face of our enemy is not that of the one who attends church on Sunday or is a Calvinist or believes in the rapture; nor for the Sunday-keeper is it the Sabbatarian or the post tribulation premillenialist. The enemy of the people of God is the one who seeks to subvert or tear down every identifiable reminder of the name and work of Christ in our culture. He is the one who strives to silence every mention of the name of Christ in our courts, our schools, and our halls of government. On occasion he may agree that it is allowable to speak of "deity" or of God, but you must not speak the name of Christ. In short, our enemy is the one who attempts to drive the name of Christ from every corner of our culture.

Many Christians, when confronted with the differences in doctrine and practice in other Christians, have adopted the medieval attitude of "kill them all, and let the Lord sort them out." Yet, Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and do good to those that despitefully use us, and we are commanded to do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith. Our commitment to live by this kind of demonstrable love is the very thing that should differentiate us from our real enemies and make Christianity attractive to them. If every man is our neighbor, then how can we possibly treat others the way our enemies treat us? Of course, the irony here is that there is at times a tendency to treat our worldly detractors much better than we treat our brethren in the faith. If we are outraged, it should be against the sin that is so prevalent in our culture &emdash; not against those that differ with us over matters of doctrine and worship.

It's Time to Change Focus

Beliefs have consequences, as can clearly be observed in our culture's moral slide. The humanistic set of beliefs that now prevails starts with the conviction that there is no God and that every man must decide for himself what is right or wrong &emdash; that there are no universal moral absolutes. Further, the humanist believes that what we call the "physical creation" is nothing more than the chance occurrence of the collision of atoms after many billions of years of existence.

Every venue in our culture has been taken over by the humanist's anti-supernatural bias. That is why there is an increasing hostility toward the mention of Christ in our schools, in our government buildings, and in our courts. The true enemy of the Christian is the one who will not rest until all mention of Christ is expunged from public consciousness. This is the true battleground of the Christian. This is the arena in which our greatest work must be done. It is the duty of the Christian to hold back those who are being drawn toward death and destruction (Proverbs 24:11-12) and rescue as many as possible for the coming Kingdom of God.

Of course, this has always been the true arena of combat for the Christian. Yet we fight not with fists, guns, and knives, but with persuasion born in the bosom of God and planted into our spirits by His Holy Spirit. We know the ultimate outcome of this worldwide conflict, but do not know who will be there when the final battle lines are drawn. Our duty in carrying the life-giving gospel to the world &emdash; and that means into our own culture and our own neighborhood &emdash; is to win as many of the enemy as possible over to the side of our coming King. When we fight, quarrel, and devour our fellow believers, we are squandering precious time and energy that should be directed at rescuing the unbeliever from the path that leads to death, and turning him toward the only Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you..." (John 14:27) This should be our battle cry.

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