The other day I read a blog post from someone talking about something. It wasn't the something I read that got me thinking, but rather the comments from the readers to the someone and to each other.
These were supposedly well-intending, morally (and it was a Christian blog site) upright parents with the same goals I have - to protect our children. But the way they spoke to one another was appalling. The only parallel I can make is to "finger-vomiting" into a box to protect their anonymity. The hate, jealously, and comparisons shared with the other was downright rude.
So this got me to thinking. Why do we run to the temptation to see those around us as the issue - to pompously see others as the ones who need to be fixed, the ones who are wrong, the ones we need to set straight, or the ones who are the enemy? When we perceive others as the problem, our contention is with them, and the issue we need to address resides within their actions or reactions, beliefs or disbeliefs, opinions or realities, concerns or disinterests. As a result, we find ourselves preoccupied with strategizing how we're going to hammer away at their responses, morals, ethics, or even integrity. We focus more energy on winning the game and beating them with our linguistic superpowers as a way to prove our immaculacy, innocence, or our highbrowed superiority as the better person or parent. To that end, we tear down, defame, sabotage, and incapacitate with the written word to the point of making calculated accusations meant to annihilate our enemy.
Don't sit their smug with your mouth agape thinking you don't do this. We all do.
What made me sad about reading this interchange of argument and counterargument was this: All these things we do or say to win this war of words is predicated on a lie. A lie we've all utterly believed. And we're too blind with righteous rage to realize that believing and acting upon this lie does more damage to ourselves than we suppose we're doing to our "enemy."
What's the lie? People are the issue. They are our enemy. Our war is with them. And because somebodies got to win, it's gonna be me.
Guys, people are not the issue. People may create issues, but people are not issues. People are not our enemies. Our contention is not with them. You and I are not at war with one another. It's a lie. It's all just a cunning deception to initiate infighting within the ranks of those who are beloved.
You and I are beloved. We're on the same side . . . in this thing together . . . fellow sojourners in this extraordinarily small gap we call life. I need you. You need me. We need each other. Period. That's the truth.
As I thought more about this lie, I found it quite clever actually. Let me ask you a question: How would you defeat an enemy by never lifting your finger? Here's the clever logic in the lie. If you shrewdly created distrust among your enemy, so they began to focus their attention on each other, they would begin to doubt one another and cast a suspicious eye upon the other. And once this "lie" is swallowed, your enemy would begin to doubt the intentions, actions, and even thoughts of their own. This mistrust would consequently lead to disagreements, arguments, skirmishes, and then finally to all out war - a war that your enemy fights with themselves. All the while, you sit smug in your seat having never even lifted a finger to fight.
And the diabolically ingenious, calculatingly clever part of the lie? They have just forgotten who's the real enemy. By seeing each other as the problem, we unwittingly succeed in accomplishing the real enemy's plan for us. We end up destroying ourselves. And by this I mean, you destroy yourself, and I destroy myself, all the while falsely believing we are laying waste to each other.
This must stop!
What if there was a better way? What if we refused to give in to the temptation to believe the lie, and instead embraced one another as the beloved and determined to stand together as we face the real issue? One, it would mean we would truly believe our conflict is not with each other, it's with the issue. But most importantly, two, it would mean we would begin to focus on the real enemy. Our actual enemy has one goal in mind for you - to steal, kill, and destroy. It's with this enemy that our battle lines have been drawn.
But before we think this better way is the best way, and we believe our war with the enemy is ongoing and we must wage a daily battle with him. Here's a little truth spoken in love. That's another lie!
The truth is that this so-called battle is over. The enemy of our souls has lost the war. He has been defeated. Past tense. Colossians 2:15 says that Jesus "disarmed the demonic rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him." Jesus won the war. And so did we.
When we're convinced of this truth, all the energy we expend trying to fight an already defeated enemy is freed. What if we used that power to build each other up rather than tear down? What if we spent the time we have in this life to lovingly encourage one another, to speak life and hope and peace to our brothers and sisters. Imagine what would happen if I was more concerned with helping you to shine, than I was with polishing my own reputation or status?
I know we oftentimes think this is hard to do. But this is not a difficult challenge for us. Built into the fabric of who we are is this desire, ability, and responsibility to truly love one another with our words and actions.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to "encourage one another and build one another up." Hebrews 10:24 says to "stir up one another to love and good works." Ephesians 4:29 shares with us to not speak badly of others, but to build them up and give them grace. We are called to "admonish the idle, encourage the faith hearted, help the weak, and be patient with them all," in 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
All you nobodies out there, we can do this. Stop speaking vile words to people and start spewing life and hope and peace and love with the words we speak, and type, and with our actions.
It's time we stopped believing this lie. And the only way to stop is to start. Start believing and acting on the truth. When you're tempted to tear down, rip apart, gossip about, or be downright mean to somebody else.
Remember the truth.
And just be Jesus.