In 1992 Walter Wink wrote this about the United States: “It will be interesting, with the ending of the Cold War, to see what parade of scapegoats, enemies and barbarians are invented to carry out the national shadow. Saddam Hussein has already performed that role splendidly. Who will be next?” Have you ever wondered why it is so important to have enemies? I live in Denver; we hate the Oakland Raiders. If the Broncos have a season record of 2-14 with both wins against Oakland, it would still be a good season. I am also a lifelong Vancouver Canucks fan. After last year’s Stanly Cup playoffs I still find it hard to think good thoughts about Boston.
Our war on terror, at least the part that was directed against Saddam Hussein, has “officially” come to an end. It almost seems that in preparation for an end to hostilities in Iraq we needed to find a new enemy and so the Axis of Evil was created.
Is it possible that we “need” enemies because friends tend to overlook weaknesses and give us a pass on our sinful nature? Do enemies reveal parts of who we are, both individually and corporately, that friends would be too afraid or polite to uncover? Is it possible that Jesus asks us to pray for our enemies because in praying for them a space is created to take a hard look are our own weaknesses and faults?
We need enemies, not because they are evil and we are good. We need enemies because they are the only people (or nations) with the courage to ask us to look in a mirror and acknowledge who we really are. When we own the totality of who we are conversion becomes a possibility and the kingdom of God becomes a reality, right here, right now.