Lord Horatio Nelson was Britain’s greatest naval hero. As his fleet was sailing into battle one day, it is reported that Nelson’s men began to fight among themselves. Calling out their names, Nelson pointed toward the approaching fleet and exclaimed, “Gentlemen, there is the enemy!”
All church members would do well to adopt the same outlook. Too often we have looked at those in our church who have different opinions or different preferences as adversaries or even enemies. When we do so, we fail to recognize that they are brothers and sisters. We fail to acknowledge God’s desire that the church be in unity. And we do so to our own harm and to the detriment of the Kingdom of God.
Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” When we are in conflict in the church, we need to be careful not to paint others as enemies. We have one enemy. He is the father of lies. His job description is to steal, kill and destroy. It is not that our fellow member is being used by Satan, but Satan will take very opportunity to disrupt and derail the work of God’s church. He’s an opportunist and he’s always looking to stir up trouble.
This does not mean that we ignore conflict in the church, nor does it mean that we never take action when it comes to the hurtful actions of others. What it does mean is that we respond to others with a desire for restoration to full fellowship. Even when church discipline is exercised, restoration and unity should be the driving factors.
An old Pogo cartoon (and, yes, that dates me) made the statement, “We have met the enemy and He is us.” In the church that statement holds no truth. Those who have a common faith also have a common enemy. We must be sure to know the difference between our church family and our enemy!