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“But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you” (Exodus 23:22).

This past week I watched the National Spelling Bee which is held annually in Washington, D. C. near Memorial Day weekend. The event is for youth younger than fourteen and those who have not yet completed the eighth grade. What is interesting about the competition is that many of the contestants know each other because they may have participated in a prior year or have a sibling who did so. Because of their familiarity, they often find themselves cheering each other on. In an interview with one of the finalists, she explained that they don’t view the challenge as a threat coming from the other participants but from the word they are given to spell.  In this way, it is “the dictionary who becomes the enemy.” Ultimately they learn a valuable lesson that enemies are sometimes of our own making, embracing: “When people’s lives please the LORD, even their enemies are at peace with them” (Proverbs 16:7).

In warfare we often find that yesterday’s enemies are today’s allies. Nearly seventy-one years after an atomic bomb fell from the skies onto the city of Hiroshima bringing an end to World War II, an American President placed a wreath at the Peace Memorial of that city.  President Obama credited the United States and Japan for forging “not only an alliance but a friendship.”  Relationships are formed in the strangest ways between people whose countries were once adversaries. I recently heard a story of an American man whose mother delivered him in a German bomb shelter while aircraft from the allied forces flew overhead targeting his homeland.  Many decades later he became friends with a local businessman in small town America who flew in one of those bombers. On the occasion that he introduced this friend – he shared the story of his birth and concluded with the tag line, “Thanks for missing.”  It was no doubt meant to be, for: “Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me” (Psalm 138:7).

As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend, it’s easy for the meaning of the holiday to lose the significance when we open the backyard pool or invite friends and relatives over to share a meal prepared on the grill.  This unofficial beginning of summer is more than just a three-day weekend.  Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance for all those who have given their lives serving in the American armed forces. The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, started after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate dead. Even in that war, opposing ideologies positioned friend against friend and sometimes brother against brother. For all those who have sacrificed for our country, Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation.”

For we who choose to journey with Christ, we must also be aware of the enemy at work in our own lives. Most Biblical scholars agree that there are three. The first of these is the world itself. The Apostle John has written: “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you” (1 John 2:15). The world is our outer enemy, but we have an inward one as well which evolves from our own sinful nature. Paul said. “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:22-23). The third and last of these is the shrewd Devil himself, perhaps our greatest foe. “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). In this way it is clear that we are challenged in our own war, just like those who marched onto the field of battle. Therefore, “Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). Who can argue that it’s not a battle worth fighting!

REFLECTION: How do you feel about the statement once made by General George S. Patton – “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”


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