I’ve grown up as a forgetful person. I never wanted to be; I didn’t consciously decide to be (or if I did, I’ve forgotten). But the fact remains that I have been known to forget things. I even spent most of this last year having forgotten my age (seriously, you can ask my wife—she’s had to correct me on it frequently)! And I am getting better, to be sure…but I still am forgetful from time to time. We all are! Some of us are far more forgetful than others, but none of us remember everything we need to. Often, we have an easy time remembering the things we don’t really need to remember, and a harder time remembering the things we do. But thankfully, Jesus has given us a Helper—the Holy Spirit—to remind us of the things that are most important.
One of the things I’ve been reminded of by the Holy Spirit lately is something that the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus: “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.” That verse has some major implications that we can be very prone to forget! That means that despite the arguments we may have had with our spouse, they’re not the enemy. Despite the grudges we may have been holding against our co-workers, they’re not the enemy. Despite what we might think about the things our friends have been doing, they’re not the enemy. Despite the disobedience your kids may have shown lately, they’re not the enemy. There’s all sorts of conflicts that can come up in our relationships, and all sorts of ways that we can choose to respond…but no matter the circumstance, they are not the enemy!
I’m not attempting to make excuses for people’s choices, condone ungodly behavior, or imply that conflict is the devil’s doing. We are all responsible for our own choices, and despite the popular saying, the devil can’t make you do it if you’re in Christ—he can only try and convince you that you should do it. People need to be held accountable, and our choices—good or bad—always have effects. What I am saying is that even in the midst of conflict…even in the midst of poor choices…even in the midst of hurt…we’re not fighting against people. We may think they’re being stubborn, or stupid, or unrealistic, or insubordinate—and they may be, actually—but it’s Satan’s mission to steal, kill, and destroy. It’s God’s mission to redeem, restore, and reconcile. We have been given a ministry of reconciliation, and not of judgement! And while consequences will need to be dealt with, and relationships will need to be managed, and conversations will need to be had, they ought to all be part of reconciliation. We have an enemy. It’s just not each other.
What did Jesus say to do to the ones we’re not getting along with? Love them. Pray for them. Go the extra mile with them. We may not like them, but we’ve got to love them! And love doesn’t boast; it’s not proud; it’s not self-serving. Arguing to “win” totally misses considering others as better than yourselves, and believing that the first shall be last and the last first. Healthy conflict has redemption as a goal, rather than victory. So as you go throughout your week, interacting with all sorts of people, remember: they’re not the enemy. They’re providing you with an opportunity to see the redemptive power of God at work in your life. And experiencing that is something you can’t forget.