Following the battle of Lake Erie, in 1813, U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Perry sent a message to U.S. Army General William Henry Harrison stating,”We have met the enemy, and they are ours.” Around 158 years later, cartoonist Walt Kelly, in his cartoon strip about a swamp possum, Pogo, drew a cartoon of Pogo, sadly staring out at the pollution that threatened to ruin his swamp home, as Pogo forlornly intoned, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.“
I’ve been thinking over the lessons I have learned so far from my study of the book of Isaiah (I’m participating in a Bible Study Fellowship class this year, for those of you who haven’t been following my blog). There are a lot of warnings, grim warnings, in this book. That was Isaiah’s job! He was a prophet, appointed by God to warn the people of Judah to repent, and if they did not repent, Isaiah predicted that judgment was coming. Judgment, in this book, is one of the promises of God, and it’s one of those promises that we really don’t like to think about.
We like to think about the promises of God that make us happy; things that make us feel better. And there are lots of those very excellent promises in the Bible, and they are all true. Those of us who are a part of God’s family are promised eternal life. We are promised hope, and joy, and peace, and love. We are promised that He will never leave us. I love that God has given all those things to me, and to all His children.
So, as I’ve been reading all the warnings God was giving to the people of Judah, and Israel (you know, THOSE people, WAY OVER THERE, A LONG TIME AGO), thinking, “My. That’s pretty much a downer. Those people sure were bad!!!”, when I had a very sobering wake-up call kind of moment. Those warnings were NOT to the “bad” people of the world, but to God’s own, dearly beloved people. In other words, those warnings were to people like ME. And, maybe, to people like YOU. And what He wants “those people”, who are actually US, to know, is that He detests arrogance. And that those who exalt themselves will be humbled. He detests the unjust treatment of widows and orphans – of people who cannot speak up for themselves, who have no defender.
I think it is so easy for Christians to get into a mindset of fear: that somehow we must build walls to protect ourselves from the evil people of the world. But what I hear Isaiah saying to us is that the enemy is actually inside the walls, and can be found in our own pride and self-reliance (as opposed to having a heart that humbly seeks to follow Christ in a life of service to others).
I don’t wanna be my own worst enemy. Do you? Yet I hear God calling me to examine my prideful, arrogant attitudes. Maybe I’m not saying consciously to myself, “Who needs God anyway?”, but I’d say that lately, you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence of a deep relationship with my Abba Father in Heaven in my everyday life. Too absorbed in life’s business and activities, or in playing on the computer or watching my favorite show on TV to talk with my Father in heaven.
Furthermore, if we start comparing ourselves to those outside the kingdom of God to make ourselves feel better, and start thinking, “Well, I sure am glad I’m not as bad as THOSE people! Look at how evil THEY are. I need to stay AWAY from them!” we begin to develop a “circle the wagons” mentality, which totally misses the boat on why Jesus came to earth.
And why was that? Why did He come to earth? To seek and to save the lost! Who? Oh, yeah, those “bad” people we’re busy isolating ourselves from.
If I’m looking for an enemy, I really don’t have to look much farther than my mirror, and my own reliance on myself.
God grant me the humility to realize my desperate need for You. And grant me the love that I need to reach out to those who are different from me, but for whom you also died. Help me reach out in love to those who don’t yet know You as their own loving Father in heaven.