Whoever made the observation that we are defined by our enemies should have gone one step further, adding “and this is much easier to see in others than in ourselves.” The truth of this observation has never been more evident than in recent months as we have watched the tensions increase over Iraq. Accusations that Iraq has amassed weapons of mass destruction, defies the United Nations, and ignores the will of its people have been evident in the leaders of the West, where the nation leading the charge could well be accused of doing the same things (along with our own!).
I noticed this also during the week in a dialogue between church leaders and Muslims, where accusations that were leveled against Islam included that they were intolerant of those with different beliefs, that they were anti-christian, and that violence was a means by which they were keen to make their point. One of the church leaders present made the observation that 1000 years ago christians did exactly those things to Muslims. When someone raised the question about an agenda to create Islamic nations (including in Australia), my mind wandered back to the promotion of the “10/40 window” and the mission strategy to convert people in these nations to the christian faith.
In these situations it is easy to identify inconsistencies in the ways we approach our “enemy” as opposed to the way in which we have viewed our own history. When there is a level of distance, objectivity is more easily obtained.
But at a personal level, it is much more difficult. As the relational “temperature” rises, objectivity departs. We look on ourselves with different eyes than those we use to evaluate those we oppose. It gives context and focus to the question raised by Jesus “Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” Yet when we learn to see one another as sharing the same problems and challenges, we realise the importance of beginning to work together on solving them, rather than fighting one another. I need the help of my enemies in defining and identifying my own problems as much as they need me!
But that means acknowledging that we might be as much a part of the problem as the person we seek to lay all responsibility upon.
March 9, 2003