The Lord’s Enemies Print
By James V. Schall, S.J.   
Thursday, 08 July 2010

We would not imagine that the Lord has or could have “enemies.” Yet we read in Paul, for example: “Christ’s reign will last until all his enemies are made subject to him” (1 Co 15:25). And in Psalm 110: “The Lord’s revelation to my Master: ‘Sit on my right’ your foes I will put beneath your feet.” An enemy opposes us on the basis of what we are. Can anyone oppose God on the basis of what He is? I have long pondered this notion that God has enemies. Christ said to “love” your enemies. He did not say they would necessarily love us in return. The classic idea was not to “love” your enemies, but to destroy them. In an obvious sense, Christ’s enemies did destroy Him.

This notion of God’s enemies is counter-intuitive. God is good. Deus caritas est. Does the fact that God has enemies mean that God is not good, that something about Him is unlovable? It seems unlikely. God has enemies because He is good. Something about the goodness of God can be rejected. It is standard teaching, however, that if we really know or see what is good, we cannot reject it. We are made to see that what is good is good. So where is the problem?

The goodness of God is ever the first perplexity in believing in Him. We insist on asking about evil for which we blame God, not ourselves. Few have trouble admitting that disorder is found in our lives and in the world. We argue that God could have done a “better” job if He made a world without evil.

Yet we pray. “Deliver us from evil.” That is, we have a world in which evil is present. We ask God to protect us from it. We find depictions of Satan saying, “Evil, be thou my good.” This choice of what is the opposite of good is itself described in terms of good. We cannot do evil without affirming some good.

The fact is that the world was created good and we in it. The origin of evil is not the world itself. This puzzles us. We suspect that evil is related to something greater, something that could not exist without its possibility. The world is better made, as it were, if evil is permitted to be in it. The world exists in order that more than God can affirm what is good. This affirmation indicates that within the world is a being capable of affirming the goodness of God.

But if the goodness of God can be affirmed, it can also be denied; otherwise the affirmation has no meaning. But we just said that the enemies of God always attack Him on the grounds of what is good. The grounds for rejecting God are provided by God in creating what is good, but what is not Himself. All movements against God include affirmations of what is in fact good.

The “enemies of God” do not seem to be something passive. Indeed, what is against God seems out to recruit others to follow them. It is not enough to stand by on the sidelines. We are to make a choice. We cannot be neutral. Yet we often want not to be bothered by these things of God. We want to be left alone when neither God nor His enemies will let us alone. Why is this?

God’s enemies would logically have something that they affirm to be superior to God. The classical alternative has ever been one’s self. God seems to have had but one real choice that would stir Him to create in the first place. That would be the reality of a being or series of beings other than Himself who were invited to affirm their own goodness by recognizing a goodness that was far greater than theirs.

We generally call this power in a being his “freedom.” God does not want to be recognized for anything less than who He is. This recognition is what we are invited to manifest in our deeds, words, and lives. The key word is “invited.” We are not forced or necessitated. We are “commanded” in the sense that God wants us to know the real meaning of our lives – “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God.”

But this command has the force of an invitation, of directing us to what reality is about. It has about it “See all there is to see, nothing less.” God’s enemies are ever those who urge us to see less than there is to see, who deprive us of the great adventure of what is more than ourselves. God’s enemies take God seriously as an enemy; otherwise they cannot affirm themselves as something greater than God.

James V. Schall, S.J., a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent book isThe Mind That Is Catholic.

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