For or Against

Aaron Ireland

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
Matthew 12:30

Recently, an agnostic friend of mine drew my attention to an image on Facebook, comparing Jesus with Anakin Skywalker (aka, Darth Vader, a character in the Star Wars movies). The two stated anyone who is not with them, is against them. In the third episode of the Star Wars movies, Anakin says this to his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi, who replies, “Only a Sith (the evil counterpart to a Jedi Knight) deals in absolutes”. The caption read “Sith Lords. Jesus was one”.

While this was obviously intended as a humorous mockery of Christianity, my goal here is explore this “for/against” concept, by comparing Jesus words, and intentions, with those of Skywalker. Unfortunately both the statements are being expressed in one of the worst human languages, when it comes to conveying an idea without being misconstrued (English), and so contextual clarification is necessary. After all, if we are prepared to take someone out of context, we can make them say whatever we want them to mean.

Firstly, let’s look at Skywalker. In the movie, “Revenge of the Sith”, Anakin Skywalker is seduced to the dark side of the force by the evil Sith Lord, Darth Sidious. Skywalker has dreams where his wife, Padme Amidala, dies in child birth. Sidious tells Skywalker that he knew of a Sith Lord that had discovered how to bring someone back from the dead, and that the same Sith Lord taught him how to do it. Skywalker gives himself over to the dark side of the force, as Sidious’ apprentice, and beyond about a series of events that lead to Padme’s death. Kenobi confronts Skywalker, challenging the fact that he had turned to evil, and Skywalker replied by saying, “If you are not with me, you are my enemy.”

Now let’s look at Jesus. Matthew’s gospel records an event where a demon possessed man was brought to Jesus. Jesus cast the demon out of the man, curing him of muteness and blindness. Onlookers were amazed, feeling that this was a sign that he was the promised Messiah. The religious leaders of the day dismissed this by accusing him of being given power over demons by the Devil, himself.

Jesus pointed out the ludicrous nature of their logic, by saying that a kingdom divided against itself would be brought to destruction, and would be unable to stand. He then went on to question how they cast out devils, using their own logic. He then went on to say, “He who is not with me, is against me.”

[pullquote]Skywalker expressed the fact that if Kenobi chose not to join with him, he would be treated as an enemy, demonstrated by the lightsaber battle that followed. Jesus, on the other hand, was refuting the claim that the Devil was working through him to cast out the devil, by pointing out that the devil wouldn’t work against himself.[/pullquote]

So, here with have two seemingly identical statements, which can be seen to be quite different, when looked at contextually. Skywalker expressed the fact that if Kenobi chose not to join with him, he would be treated as an enemy, demonstrated by the lightsaber battle that followed. Jesus, on the other hand, was refuting the claim that the Devil was working through him to cast out the devil, by pointing out that the devil wouldn’t work against himself. In fact, his statement was intended to point out that saying something against him was one thing, but too say something against the Holy Spirit, who gave him the power to cast out demons, is a serious matter, not to be taken lightly. It was more prelude to warning of the seriousness of accusing the Holy Spirit of being the Devil.

Having said all that, this is far from the only passage in Scripture that expressed this notion of being against God, and some even describe those who side against God as the enemy. Before we look at this further, let us look at what an enemy actually is:

enemynoun
1. A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
2. A hostile nation or its armed forces or citizens, esp. in time of war.

The definition of enemy can be both broad, or narrow. Perhaps to broaden it even further, my enemy is one that is work against my agenda. Consider how this applies to various interpretations of the word. The allied forces were the enemy of the Nazis because they sought to stop their military conquests. Two football teams are each other’s enemy because they both seek to stop each other winning the match. Kenobi was Skywalker’s enemy because his intention was to resist his journey to the dark side.

Before we assign moral value to viewing someone as an enemy, we need, firstly to know what their agenda is, and secondly what we plan to do with our enemies. If the mugger’s victim views his assailant as the enemy, is he doing something wrong? On the other hand the KKK member, that views the black man as his enemy, does so maliciously. Even then, the racist propaganda that he has been immersed in could be grounds for the member to have a clear conscience about his stance, even though he is still too be held accountable for his actions. No matter how justified he feels about his participation in the lynching, he is still wrong.

[pullquote]Before we assign moral value to viewing someone as an enemy, we need, firstly to know what their agenda is, and secondary what we plan to do with our enemies.[/pullquote]

In light of all this, consider the Sith. From a certain point of view, Skywalker was justified in viewing Kenobi as the enemy. After all, Kenobi was only resisting his attempts to save his wife’s life. It is what he did next that defines the morality of his opinion. His next move was to attempt to kill him. For Anakin Skywalker to consider someone to be his enemy was to put that person in a dangerous situation, for Skywalker treated his enemies with violent intent.

In Scripture we find a description of the enemy of God, possibly best expressed in James’ epistle:

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
James 4:4

This is certainly a peculiar statement. It beggars another question, namely “What does it mean to be a friend of the world?” John builds further on this notion.

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 John 2:15-17

So here we have a biblical definition of “all that is in the world”, or to word it differently, the “world’s system”. The world is predicated on three principles, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. These three principles are seen to be the most important things in life. If it feels good, it is good. If I see something I want, I should be able to have it. If it makes me feel important, it can’t be bad.

These are at the heart of our instinctual nature. They don’t need to be taught to children, but we seek to curb them with our various moral codes. Why do we do this, if it is natural? Simply because we will always have a problem when two wills collide. What do we do when two people want the same thing? What happens when our pleasure results in another’s pain? What happens when the only way we can feel important is to belittle another? Living by an instinctual code of selfishness will ultimately result in misery for most.

Let us contrast this with God, who tells us to cast our cares upon him, for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). A concept is introduced, which is contrary to nature. It is seen as a mystery by most. This concept is “love”. It is a condition by which people grant exception to others. When it is a choice between us getting our own way, and the one that we love doing so, we tend to argue that the other should have it. Often we will secretly allow the other to have their way, denying ourselves even the sense of importance. Love is the great contradictory force to the system of the world.

[pullquote]So, to love the world is to love one’s self at the expense of others, and to love the world is to demonstrate enmity with God, because it works against His agenda…[/pullquote]

So, to love the world is to love one’s self at the expense of others, and to love the world is to demonstrate enmity with God, because it works against His agenda (Matthew 22:37-40). So what would God have His people do with His enemy? Would he draw his proverbial lightsaber on them, like Skywalker would? Would light flaming crosses in front of their house, like the KKK would? Would he brand them and send them off to death camps like the Nazis would? Allow me to draw your attention to the words of Jesus, the one on trial here:

44 Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Matthew 5:44-46

So, God sends rain and sunshine to both his friends and his enemies, and we are to use this as an example to model our treatment of our enemies. Not only are we to avoid maliciousness, but we are to treat them with kindness due to one we love. Earlier in the same speech, Jesus instructed his people to offer their other cheek to be stuck also, when someone strikes them, rather than repay evil with evil, as an application of this stranger, which was to follow.

In light of this, I ask if it is really that big a deal to be considered God’s enemy? Isn’t it more likely that Jesus’ quoted words are to be read as “those who are against me are acting like my enemy”, than “those who are against me are to be treated as enemies”? The simple fact is, history has shown ample occasions where the world has turned against Christians simply because of their belief. Even if we cite the dark ages and the crusades, those who chose to believe the Bible over the pope suffered alongside everyone else. In fact, during the dark ages, to be a heretic was to claim to be a Christian, but work against the Church. Those that didn’t believe, and never joined the church may have been treated unjustly, but nonconformist Christians faced flames at the stake.

Even in current times we have instances on church pastors being burnt alive in their cars in India, tortured in prisons in communist China, and executed in Arab nations. Recent history has also seen purges in the Soviet Union and Romania, and Catholic persecution of Protestants in Spain. I realize that Christians aren’t alone when it comes to persecution, but it is a real situation, nonetheless.

[pullquote]To warn believers that friendship with the world is enmity with God, is to warn them that friends of the world are unsafe.[/pullquote]

To warn believers that friendship with the world is enmity with God, is to warn them that friends of the world are unsafe. Having said all that, we trust in the security that God gives, who says that He will keep us through the various trials we endure. To those who are not Christians, this is precisely how we view you, as the enemy of God, and therefore, of us. Please don’t take it personally. We will treat you with more kindness than most others in spite of this. In fact, if this is not the case, it is possible that you are dealing with someone who claims to be a Christian, but isn’t considered to be one by God (1 John 2:4;Matthew 7:15-23,22:37-40).

For more on this theme, check out Appropriate Affection Toward the Enemy of God.

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