John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Who Is Our Enemy?

The Pharisees were really clear about who their enemy was (and, in their view, their enemy was also God's enemy). It was the Romans. It was also anyone who intentionally disregarded the Torah -- people like hookers and IRS agents and "sinners". I don't want to chase this rabbit trail too far afield, but it is interesting to me that the Pharisees frequently use this phrase, "prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners" -- as if prostitutes and tax collectors are so bad they can't even fit into the category of "sinners". And yet Jesus is known as a friend of all three.

Be befriending these people, Jesus redefined the concept of "enemy" in such a way that he ended up offending the Pharisees.

Jesus called his contemporary Jews a "wicked and adulterous generation". He said the religious leaders of his day were idolatrous and enslaved to their love of money. He suggested they might be weeds in the wheat field, bad fish caught up in the same net with good fish. It sounded as if he might think that the people of God -- worse, the leaders of the people of God -- had become the enemies of God.

It sounds as if he might agree that the world we're afraid of could be found in the church we love. (I don't know about you, but that sounds like fuzzy set thinking to me.)

G.K. Chesterton famously responded to this question posed in the form of an essay contest: "What is Wrong With the World?" He wrote two words: "I am!"

What's really wrong with the world is not that there are too many liberals out there or postmodernists in our schools and government. What is most fundamentally wrong with the world is that the people of God fail to live like the people of God.

Jesus reserved his harshest statements for those who were supposedly in a covenant relationship with God, not for outsiders. The Apostle Paul echoes this when he wrote to the church in Corinth: "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside." (1 Corinthians 5:12-13a)