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Points to Ponder: The Virtue of Your Enemies

Points to Ponder
The Virtue of Your Enemies
By Pastor Whitmore
Weekly Contributing Writer

I used to have a mentor who was a pastor. He taught me a lot about surrendering to God, seeking His will, and becoming a minister myself. It often struck me that as he would critique the character and behavior of other pastors, their flaws and their failures, he never cited his own. In fact, he often compared them to himself; as if he was the standard of how it's done. I have come to learn that Jesus Christ is the only standard of perfection in anything.
If I only see the sins of another and seldom reflect upon my own, I am not looking hard enough. I have found that it doesn't take much effort or time to do that; just the will and humility.
It's even more revealing when you learn to appreciate your adversaries. Take for instance, how diverse sources can share a similar truth from opposite directions.
Author Walter Wink said, "In some ways we may need enemies." Standing in opposition to them actually helps us define our own beliefs and identity.
Another source is the scriptures.
"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." (Proverb 27:17)
Our true friends confront us on points that need to be faced. They take on our rough edges and by logic, reason, and sharing the truth in love, they help sharpen our perceptions and fine tune our abilities.
Enemies and friends both confront us and it can be uncomfortable if not downright painful. The enemy may intend to harm; certainly it's not in love that they come at us. However, friends can be just as tough on the same issues, and yet it is the boldness of love that compels that interaction.
It's more pleasant to be in the company of those who share our beliefs and vote as we do. But what challenge is there in that? What can you learn about why you think as you do if you don't have the guts to let some heretic (in your view) dare to question you?
Is it because they are so far off the wrong side of the argument that you would find the discussion aggravating? Or is it possible, that if they actually caught you in a stand you couldn't defend, you'd be too proud to admit that maybe it's worth a second look? Maybe they have a point.
Or, even worse, suppose you find that you actually agree with your opponent; that if you were honest about it, you may need to change your way of thinking about it.
The late Claire Booth Luce, a former U.S. ambassador, once noted that she had outlived her enemies and that she missed them terribly "because they helped define me."
I attended a seminary where many professors and most of my classmates were theologically to the left (often far left) of me. Several of the conservative students transferred out; one warned that I needed to get out of there as well, before I became corrupted. He had a point on the one hand; but on the other hand, if my faith was that easily shaken, maybe I needed to test it by standing on the right side of that left-bound road. I graduated magna cum laude, earning both a degree as well as the respect of those who differed with me. Because I stayed in the discussion, it became just that. Personalities and stereotypes were set aside. My theological "adversaries" had names, families, a back story to their strongly held beliefs, and a way of reasoning that helped me to understand.
I learned to empathize, to comprehend, and to even explain the view I oppose without feeling threatened by it. Plus, it helped me question my own views and develop them. I do not need to compromise my beliefs in order to understand yours. In fact, you would be more open to listening to me if you knew I was sincerely interested in listening to you.
Now I ask you: What's wrong with that? Why can't some people calmly sit and listen to an opposing view, no matter how ridiculous or destructive it seems to be? How will you change their mind or prevent their world view from progressing if you become defensive, or attack the individual, or argue? Is your goal to win a debate or to feel superior?
The Apostle Paul gives good advice to believers who feel their opponent is lost and in the wrong.
"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." (II Timothy 2:24-26)
The "right side" of the issue is known best by the Lord. In spiritual matters, it is His debate to win, for only He can know the heart of all concerned. Even yours.

Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring. Listen to Rev. Whitmore on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs at 10:45 a.m. & p.m. & Wed at 10:45 a.m.

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