No Human Enemies
Teach me to be love, as You are Love; Lead me through each fear; Hold my hand as I walk through the valleys of doubt each day, That I may know your peace. I believe that I shall know the Realm of Heaven, of Love, here on Earth! – Psalm 27:11-13 (as rendered by Nan C. Merrill)
The traditional translation of the 27th Psalm includes numerous references to enemies. What begins as a bold statement of faith—“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”—quickly shifts gears, becoming a litany of fears interspersed with positive faith talk.
I love this psalm—and yet I long to know God as so much more than buckler, shield, and the One who is on my “side.”
I love the idea of living in God’s peace—and yet I’m pretty sure the biggest obstacles to that are not other people.
If we hope to grow through life’s challenges, endure for the long haul, survive our human wounds, come out transformed on the other side, and know the realm of heaven here on earth, perhaps we need to change how we think about enemies.
Some climate-change organizers are working on it: proclaiming that there are no human enemies, only longstanding systems built on greed, exploitation, and domination. When we focus on our differences with other people and think of them as our enemies, we enable the very systems that are the problem. And when those of us who are on the same “side” turn against one another, injustice inevitably wins.
Let us not succumb to the temptation to cast our siblings as enemies.
Teach us to be love, O God, that all might know your peace and justice.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.