Thursday, February 4, 2010

Let's be frenimies!

For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life! Romans 5:10

For he is destined to reign until God has put all enemies under his feet; and the last enemy to be abolished is death 1 Corinthians 15:25

I thought there was another New Testament verse referencing humanity as God's enemy, but I'm not able to locate it through Google.

I was struck by the first verse a couple days ago. I came across it in another location, and starting ruminating. Now, humanity as a whole, if born into a state of sin thanks to Original Sin, is born as God's enemy. To me, "enemy" isn't a casual word. This is someone who has the potential to cause serious harm to one's opponent, and also greatly dislikes the other person.

I can see where the Christian would say that all unsaved people meet the second criteria, as they'd (the conservative one, at any rate) say that all people are hostile to God by default, and it's only by accepting Jesus that one changes to a non-hostile state.

But the potential to cause serious harm? God's omnipotent. I can't even get my perfect-candidate-for-the-Darwin-Award cat to stop using my stairs as a scratching post. We simply don't have the power to cause any damage to an omnipotent being. Especially once the omniscience is thrown in, because not only is God all-powerful, He can foresee any futile attack in the first place.

Not only that, but this enemy list includes death. Any unsaved person is on the same list as death (though I would hope not on the same level). This is a serious enemy list.

Yet I also constantly come across the idea of humanity's level of importance compared to God. We are jars of clay, and jars of clay don't talk back to the Potter. God can do whatever He wants with us, just like an artist can with a painting he creates. We should be grateful, period, that God even deigns to notice us, given how more more superior He is to humanity, and how better. We should be flattered that God even wants us, as He doesn't need anything.

If humanity's that low on the totem pole, how can it possibly be a credible enemy? If it's that "nothing" compared to God, how can it be a viable threat? How can God even feel threatened in the first place? Especially if both humanity and death are enemies of God? Jars of clay aren't the Potter's enemies. If we have no power whatsoever, how can we be any sort of enemy, period?

19 comments:

societyvs said...

I do think we are enemies in some ways, like how we can become the enemy of a friend - in that regard we can become an enemy of what God is doing...we can actually fight against doing good for our neighbors or promoting ideas of peace.

I can see how we can be seen as a sort of enemy - not that we present any real threat to God's kingdom...we are ants in that sense.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

If the person is able to become an enemy by fighting against one's neighbor, then doesn't that give the person some level of power? Some way of influencing an outcome, or influencing another person? It just seems to go against the concept of "You are nothing in God's eyes" that I see a lot.

Lorena said...

What a great point! It does seem that under Paul's theology God has a bone with Satan and created humanity to use us as the "middle-man." Both God and Satan are trying to lure us, and we, meaningless, sinful, and all, end up being both of their enemy.

It makes me want to swear, but I won't do it in respect to you.

Temaskian said...

I agree with Lorena that this is a great point.

The bible is portraying all those outside Christianity as 'enemies' so as to establish the boundary and the tribal spirit.

For clearly, no one can truly be qualified enough to count as an enemy of God. Not powerful enough.

We are less than ants, for even ants can be a nuisance.

Jon said...

I think if God is truly loving we have the power to cause him pain by refusing his love and returning indifference instead. If this was not the case, God would be distant and uncaring and who would want to worship a god like that? This pain was acted out through Christ's death, a dramatisation of human rejection.

Re Temaskian - "the bible is portraying all those outside Christianity as enemies", I don't think that is what Paul is saying. In Romans he says "WE were enemies" and in Corinthians the enemies are metaphorical, like Death. Jesus says "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" - effectively saying that we don't see anyone as an enemy, even though they may see us as such.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

**Both God and Satan are trying to lure us, and we, meaningless, sinful, and all, end up being both of their enemy. **

A lot of Christian ideas I come across seem to go with the idea that we belong to Satan by default, and God tries to get us back/reclaim us. The only way one becomes the enemy of Satan is if one has been claimed by God.

But if we're the enemy of both, that does that make us all walking paradoxes? Good and evil at the same time? Light and dark?

OneSmallStep said...

Temaskian,

**We are less than ants, for even ants can be a nuisance.**

Maybe we're equal to ants if dealing with us on a one-on-one basis. One ant is nothing. 100 ants is a big something that involves a whole can of Raid and squeamishness.

OneSmallStep said...

Jon,

Is causing someone pain the same as being someone's enemy? Children cause their parents pain all the time, possibly even by rejecting the parents' love. But the parents' wouldn't label the child as an "enemy."

**Jesus says "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" - effectively saying that we don't see anyone as an enemy, even though they may see us as such.**

Do you get the idea of not seeing anyone as an enemy by Paul grouping everyone together in Romans? Because I do think Temaskian has a point, based on certain elements in the Bible. Such as Paul telling believers not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and putting unbelievers in the same group as darkness, Belial and unrighteousness.

Jon said...

Yes, I think there's something in the Paul thing as you say - he seems to give mixed messages. I've heard the "unequal yoke" thing used in a lot of different ways especially having a lot of Brethren rellies. I wonder if Paul, because he was writing to churches, was concerned about their wellbeing in a pagan world and so warned them about various things - so the "unequal yoke" thing (whatever it means precisely) is more about self-protection than about seeing them as enemies. You might not hate fundamentalists but you probably wouldn't want to marry one, spend you life worshipping in their churches etc.

On causing pain, I was more responding to the "ants" idea - if we couldn't effect God in any way we couldn't have a relationship with him.

It raises an interesting point which I'm sure I'll express badly - I don't know that Paul or Jesus had the same kind of abstract view of God which we have inherited from Platonic philosophy via the scholastics - the uncaused cause, the unmoved mover, the thing greater than which nothing can be imagined, etc. Nor did they have any idea of the scale of the universe as we understand it now - so it was possible for the God who created it to still be much smaller and more intimate than the one we imagine when we think of the creator.

Reuben said...

Add God's alleged impassibility and immutability, and your objection is only strengthened.

Xander said...

The word enemy translates also as foe. From there you get adversary or something that opposes. That is what it is talking about. Someone who opposes the will / authority of God.

It is kind of interesting to look at. You have God and everyone else. Either you are in agreement with the will of God or your not. The whole label thing gets tossed out. Christians who oppose His will are considered foes. Non-Christians who are in agreement with His will are not. I get annoyed with the mentality that because I am "saved" then God must be on my side. There is only one side and that is God's. Rambling. Sin has all of these nasty connotations to it, but it is really just disobedience.

Unequally yoked is not talking about a casual relationship. It is talking about a committed relationship. At the same time, it is not considered a sin. It is a warning to the believer to not enter into a relationship with someone who does not share the same thoughts and beliefs. That puts an extra strain on the relationship and will cause areas of compromise that are not good.

OneSmallStep said...

Jon,

**You might not hate fundamentalists but you probably wouldn't want to marry one, spend you life worshipping in their churches etc.**

There is a huge difference between not wishing to associate with a fundamentalist, and referring them in the same category as "darkness," "unrighteousness," and "Belial," though.

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

**Someone who opposes the will / authority of God.**

But even in this, a foe can only be serious if they have some sort of power. If it's humans against a omnipotent, omniscient God ... then there isn't power. God can stop anything at any time, and knows everything that will happen anyway. How threatening can a "foe" be in that case?

Does it matter if the unequally yoked is talking about casual or committed? I can't see approval even in a casual encounter with any of the criteria: unrighteousness, Belial, darkness.

And the issue was never whether or not it was a sin -- the issue is how those outside Christianity are viewed. Those outside are put in the same categories as anything that would be considered not God-like.

But as a side-note, would you say that "yoking" with darkness or an idol of the heathen would also not be considered a sin? Because those are analogies to the unbelievers, yet you don't consider yoking with an unbeliever a sin.

Xander said...

Why do you have to be a serious threat to oppose someone? I missed where it said God felt threatened by you.

Sure it matters. If you are casual work friends, you will not be impacting the life as much as a spouse would. You are not going to be privy to influence the major decisions of that person. You pose little threat to the values and ideas of that person.

There are Christians who are not at the same level you don’t want to be yoked to them either. You do not want to be tied to someone who is not at a similar stage in life. Knowledge, work, so on and so forth. You don’t want a partner who is codependent and needy do you?

You don’t yoke yourself with darkness. Two people are yoked. You and darkness can’t work together towards the same goal as darkness is not a person. You might be yoked with a person and going on a path of darkness, but it is the disobedience that is the sin, not the relationship.

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

**Why do you have to be a serious threat to oppose someone?**

How else can you be any sort of effective or serious foe unless you have some sort of ability to be a threat? Or the ability to influence the outcome? If God is omnipotent, if God is omniscient, how can I do anything effective? How can human? Don't you have to be some sort of "threatening" force in order to successfully oppose something?

**Sure it matters. If you are casual work friends, you will not be impacting the life as much as a spouse would.**
I'm approaching this in terms of the comparison -- given the comparisons in the verse, though, and that it only takes the tiniest/casual amount of darkness/unrighteousness to make someone less than good.

Xander said...

People are called enemies or foes, but there is no seriousness to it. The Bible didn’t put where God was scared because you might win against Him. It says you opposed His will. You didn’t stop His will or almost derail it. Just opposed. If Haiti says they are going to oppose the U.S. because Haiti doesn’t want to give free medical treatment, the U.S. is not going to panic or be worried. "Oh, Haiti is going to come get us. They threatened our entire way of life because they opposed what we asked them to do." You are reading more into than what is there.

By ourselves, we are always less than good, so it doesn’t take anyone to get there. Avoid being unequally yoked, because the effort wont be the same. Avoid being unequally yoked because you will have to work harder to remain obedient.

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

But here was my question -- how can you be any sort of effective enemy or foe unless you have some sort of ability to be a threat? The words "enemy" and "foe" carry a weight to them. They have a certain meaning. In your example, calling Haiti an enemy or foe would be laughable, because they have absolutely no power in which to harm or effect the US. What kind of enemy could they possible be? What kind of opposition could they possible mount, other than stating their opposition? And, based on your analogy, are you now saying that to oppose God is the same as Haiti opposing the US? That the opposition is that negligible? That insignificant? If so, how does that match with the idea of an enemy as someone with the potential to cause serious harm?

Not only that, but based on this comment and the analogy you used, you've taken the word from "enemy --" which has serious connotations -- to "foe" to "opposing in the same manner that Haiti might oppose the US." Which greatly waters it down. Especially given how often the verse is used to show how merciful God is, in that He sent His son to die for His enemies -- expect in this case, the enemy is reduced to the same effectiveness that Haiti has in opposing the US. (Note -- I'm not saying that last part mockingly).

**It says you opposed His will. You didn’t stop His will or almost derail it. Just opposed.**

But this supports my point -- how effective of an enemy is someone if they can't stop or derail a plan? If they don't panic or worry the person?

Xander said...

I understand what you are saying, and I did water it down into context. On the cross, Jesus defeated the enemy. The battle was won and it is now over. How serious of an enemy can you really be if you have already been defeated?

Jesus died to reestablish authority over the Earth. In revelations, during the final battle, there is no attack. It is already over.

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

**How serious of an enemy can you really be if you have already been defeated?**

Not a serious one at all. :)