MY ENEMY, MY FRIENDFr. Barnabas Powell
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The quote has been described as an Arabic proverb, but more likely it comes from advice given in India by a leader who died under mysterious circumstances.
This attitude that my enemy’s enemy is my ally has been used countless times in politics and warfare to justify the “strange bedfellows” that certain alliances have created in the pursuit of political and military goals. But is there any spiritual benefit to this attitude and political tool?
Instead of a “yes” or “no” answer, why not take a look at the Scriptures to discover better advice?
In our Gospel Lesson today, the Lord’s disciples come to Jesus to report of their good work. They are seeking His approval for their actions. You see, they have come across a man who wasn’t part of their group casting out demons in the name of Jesus. The disciples told him to stop doing that since he wasn’t part of the company of the disciples.
Our dear friends, the disciples, are about to be very surprised by the Lord’s answer. He replies: “Do not forbid him; for he that is not against you is for you.”(see Luke 9:49-56) In another Gospel, Jesus remarks: “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Mark 9:39-41
So, the Lord turns this old saying on its head to teach the disciples a valuable lesson in both humility and the extent of God’s grace given to the whole world.
The disciples are encouraged to break the small mentality of “our group” in favor of the more cosmic understanding of the grace of God given to all who sincerely seek to know God. What a powerful lesson for us today to overcome the temptation to “cliques” and our own spiritual ghettos that do little more than shrink our vision of God and our love for others. Jesus applies loving wisdom to the natural tendency in the disciples, and all of us, to forget just how loving, giving, and humble our God really is. He is so gracious that anyone who seeks to embrace Him, He embraces.
And that means whomever He embraces should never be slandered as an enemy.
Seeing God’s grace we are also challenged to understand that God’s mercy and grace is possible in the world because He has a Church in the world. Far from this cosmic truth suggesting that there is some sort of “universalism” at work here where it is irrelevant what you believe as long as you have nice thoughts and kind actions, the very reason there is grace in the world that works throughout the world is because Jesus is still Present in His world through His Church. Anyone who gives you a cup of water in Christ’s name will not lose his reward.
The presence of the Lord in His Church is like the leaven that works through a lump of bread dough. So, the grace of God remains in the world transforming the world because of the Presence of the Lord through His Church.
This, too, is a lesson in humility and love for us all. As part of the Church, we are called to reflect the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord so strongly that the whole world is invited to see Christ as Present today, right now, in this place. And in experiencing the Presence of Jesus in His Church, observe as His Presence continues the same ministry He had while He walked the earth in His Incarnation.
Today, instead of shrewdly maneuvering this or that person in your life to create maximum benefit for yourself, ask the Lord to release you to bring His presence to every situation in your life. Watch as His Presence draws out of others a kindness, a service, a righteousness that they, themselves, may not have realized they possessed. Instead of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” let’s transform by grace our relationships, our acquaintances, our surroundings into humble opportunities for the Presence of Jesus in His Church to transfigure even those who don’t realize they are on the Lord’s side into companions on this spiritual journey toward Him Who loves us even more than we, ourselves, know how to love.
Today, you have no human enemies; only very real and potential companions whose very lives will enhance your own spiritual growth and progress. Don’t miss these treasures!