When Christians immigrate to America (or any other country), they not only have to learn a new language, but also a range of concepts that either have no role in the Kingdom of God or else are understood very differently. One such concept is â€œenemy.â€
Those whose lives are shaped by following Jesus remember the Master talking about enemies. â€œIf they hate me, they will hate you also,â€ he said. Jesus demonstrated that this hate was unidirectional, however. How else could it be when we also hear him say, â€œLove your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.â€ When we combine Jesusâ€™ statements with what we see in his life, we get the idea that this enmity is a one-way affair. They hate us, we love them. They try to hurt us, we try to bless them. Their decision to stand as our enemies in no way forces us to take the same stance toward them.
But then we immigrate to a country that has enemies. Once we arrive we learn that our position has weakened. When we lived with our primary allegiance to Jesus, someoneâ€™s declaration of enmity did not compel us to make a similar declaration toward them. With our new dual citizenship (or have we been naturalized â€“ given up our Kingdom citizenship?), we learn that the declaration of enmity does control us. Now when someone speaks enmity or acts as an enemy to us we are required to respond in kind.
Doubtless this relinquishing of control to those who would be our enemies makes sense in the logic of our new citizenship. Although we are allowed to trust in a god, this trust is not allowed to go very far. Instead of trusting in a god who commands us (often in ways contrary to our own desires), we get guns, bombs, tanks, planes, etc. Apparently, it is thought, these are more powerful than any god, and thus more worthy of our trust. When we read the bible we see Israel thinking similar thoughts. Unfortunately, we also see that it didnâ€™t work very well.
Millions of people have come to America â€“ in ways not in accord with Americaâ€™s laws â€“ looking for a better life. Many stubbornly refuse to assimilate and learn American language. Even as they work hard, participate in and contribute to their new communities, they retain their primary allegiance to their homeland. Who knows â€“ maybe Christians can learn something from them.