“You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” – Johnny Depp
If you choose to love, you will experience pain. Not loving leads to a lonely, unfulfilled and wasted life. Love is not an option, it’s a command and as such, it is never a waste of time. Jesus tells us the first and second greatest commandments in Luke 10:27. Welcome to Enemies of Peace.
Love is precious, it is wonderful and extremely powerful, but love has enemies. When they show up at your door, peace seems to vanish. If we allow them in for too long, they may never leave. As diverse and complicated as relationship issues are, I believe the list of things that cause these problems is relatively short. The following topics are three of these relationship killers, and as such, are enemies of peace. The same things that hamper and destroy our relationships with each other can also do likewise with our relationship with Christ and topping the list is pride.
The seven deadly sins are a group of vices with each one directly giving birth to a host of other immoralities, chief among them is pride. Towering Christian teachers throughout history like Calvin, Luther and C.S. Lewis along with many others all agreed that it is “the great sin.” It was through pride that Eve fell victim to the devil’s lies and bit into the forbidden fruit that caused all mankind to fall and through pride Lucifer was cast out of heaven and became the devil. So what is it about pride that leads to such devastating consequences?
Pride causes us to elevate ourselves beyond our place as God’s own creation and leads us to depend entirely on our own abilities. This pushes God into second or third or even tenth place in our lives and can even remove Him altogether. This lies at the heart of “new age” teaching and is gaining a lot of traction these days convincing people that they can be their own god. It’s easy to spot in the rich and famous, business leaders, politicians and even in some church leaders, but I assure you, it exists in all of us.
Pride is the most destructive and effective weapon in the devil’s arsenal, it is the complete “anti-God” state of mind. Spiritual darkness grows as people push God aside and make themselves the centre of their own world. In their minds they are the smartest person in the room, self-absorbed, self-centered, self-important and totally self-sufficient. Arrogant and sometimes abusive behaviour follows and relationships suffer, families are destroyed and nations go to war. Pride is at the heart of racism and intolerance in the world to this day. Even as believers we are vulnerable to it’s allure. The apostles themselves argued with each other about which one of them was the greatest in Luke 22:24-27. If even those who walked the earth along side Jesus can fall victim to pride, so can we.
Humility is the only known antidote for pride. An excellent example of humility and it’s effect is given in Luke 18:9-14 and addresses the dangers of spiritual pride. The self-righteous Pharisee was not justified before God but the sinful tax collector was. What made the difference? The tax collector recognized his sins and was totally dependant on God’s mercy. In verse 14 Jesus tells us that, “…everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Wouldn’t it be better to work on our humility now instead of having it forced on us later? The key ingredient when we do fall victim to pride is that we recognize it and immediately repent and forsake it. Don’t let it grow, don’t feed it.
God hates pride and will oppose it wherever He finds it, both in believers and nonbelievers. It is easy to spot in others yet we struggle to see it in ourselves. God takes pleasure in our efforts to be humble but knows that we will never be sufficiently so while here on Earth. There is no better example of humility than Jesus Christ. This is why I can’t stress strongly enough to read your Bible. Get to know Him, learn from His teachings and strive to be like Him.
Sinful pride makes it difficult for some of us to admit our mistakes and worse yet, the ability to say, “I’m sorry,” so critical in the healing process. We live in a world that views humility and meekness as a sign of weakness. I remember reading a statement years ago that stuck with me, “Meekness is great strength, under control.” I like that.
Next on the list of relationship killers is lying. We have all been lied to and we have all lied. Most common among us are the “little white lies,” the ones we tell to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to make ourselves or others feel better by avoiding criticism or condemnation. But a case can be made that we aren’t so much worried about other people’s feelings as we are that they love us. We don’t want to anger or upset them, that could lead to losing them. Humanity has coined them “little white lies” because that conjures up images of innocence and non-severity and gives them an almost God like quality when done for the sake of love. It’s a slippery slope, once we tell a smaller lie it can only be covered by a larger one.
Much of the time we get away with it and there is no need for a cover up, so we rationalize it away as no harm done. But what if we’re found out? Feelings of guilt and anxiety are common side effects of lying but can lead to full blown paranoia and even depression as we become preoccupied with keeping our secrets. Stress levels rise and peace begins to wain. One way to avoid being exposed is to stay away from people who could spill the beans. Sadly this results in fractured families and very distant relatives.
Our brains are amazingly complex and highly efficient. Science has proven that when you repeat a behaviour your neurons branch out to each other so that the flow of information becomes easier the next time you do it. “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” so the more you practice lying the easier it becomes. You can literally re-wire your brain.
The bigger the lie, the more devastating the consequences. Lies destroy, period. The devil is referred to as “…the father of all lies.” John 8:44 So if you practice lying you are brother/sister to the destroyer. Telling the truth came naturally to Jesus and should come naturally to the redeemed, but it does take work.
Don’t think for a moment that you can get away with lying. You may never be found out by man, but God hears your every word and knows the intentions of your heart. I have gained much comfort from this particular verse over the years, Luke 8:17. If you have ever been treated poorly, robbed or abandoned and the ones who are responsible seem to have gotten away with it, they have not. The Lord will take action. Romans 12:19
The bedrock of any solid relationship is trust. Lying destroys trust, so we must choose our words carefully. The Bible has many sobering references to lying. The devastation it brings into our lives and the danger it poses to our souls. God hates it. Proverbs 6:16-19.
Is it okay to get angry? Absolutely, anger is a God given emotion and some things should make us angry, but there is a caveat; don’t let your anger cause you to break God’s law. Ephesians 4:26-27. We are God’s image bearers, His moral law is written on every human heart and as such, what displeases Him, should displease us.
When I get angry, peace seems to vanish along with my self-control and common sense. I have found it helpful to ask myself, “Is this something that God is not happy with (righteous anger) or is this an opportunity for Him to grow my character? More often than not it’s the latter, a chance to work on my patience, perseverance and self-control.
Anger is an emotion that can strike quickly and with great intensity leaving little time for rational thought. Holding your tongue and being “slow to anger” is not easy but necessary in nurturing your relationships. It is a sure sign of Christian maturity. Whenever I have lost my temper guilt was close behind, and, an apology was issued. I felt shame and greatly respected those who did not respond in kind. Worse yet than course language and temper tantrums, anger can lead to violence and hatred.
Not letting the sun go down on your anger means don’t stay angry. One often quoted tidbit of advice at wedding receptions is, “never go to bed angry.” I would always add, “you can go to the couch instead.” This always brings a laugh but it is true to the fact that not all heated disagreements can be solved the same day. You can’t just flick a switch and suddenly become calm, it takes time to slow your heart rate and clear your head. This is when it’s especially important to guard against that “root of bitterness.” Not giving the devil opportunity, or a “foothold” as some translations call it means that prolonged and unresolved anger is like a door through which destruction enters. Ephesians 4:26-27. If you have ever been lied to, abused or mistreated in anyway by someone you love and they aren’t the least bit sorry or remorseful for their actions then you know how easily bitterness can start. Bitterness hurts you and those who care about you.
The more you grow in a relationship with Jesus Christ and let Him live His life through you, the less likely you are to fall for the devils schemes. I love the saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you could fall for anything.” This is not an exhaustive list of the enemies of peace but I believe they are the top three of many more that are birthed from pride.
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Image – Pixabay
inc.com – The science of lying.