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Need A New Year’s Resolution?

For those of you who make New Year’s Resolutions, I have a recommendation. I know for many Christians their annual resolutions revolve around trying to conquer a behavior to which humans seem predisposed but which the Bible warns against (such as saying things in anger we don’t mean). My suggestion here fits neatly into that general category.

One of the unsightly behaviors which comes all too naturally is what I call in my ministry the “common enemy copout”. Simply stated, this is where, having decided what or who we are against, we seek to rally around others who share this common enemy and inflict reputational harm on our adversary (mostly through words, online attacks and constantly gathering information about them that proves our aversion to them is justified). For some the common enemy is a political party, for others it might be their ex-spouse. What I am suggesting is that, instead of spending time online reading and writing about how bad that other political party is, spend time actively working on the things you see most beneficial in the party which you do support. Instead of spending time trashing your ex and trying to make them look bad in the eyes of others, actively invest in the lives of your children.

It may be helpful to some readers to understand why we tend to gravitate toward condemning those we don’t like more than helping those we do. In my experience, I have seen four main reasons, with some of them overlapping. • When something goes against us or we see something unfair or unjust, the natural reaction is to seek to punish the wrongdoer in some way. We just can’t let them get away with that! But the Bible states “vengeance is mine says the Lord” (Deuteronomy 32: 35 and Romans 12: 19) • We all are seeking an identity and a place to belong. The group we rally around with in the common enemy copout seems to provide those things for us. Unfortunately, we are fooling ourselves when we fall into that trap. • It is one of the odd quirks of human nature that it can make us feel more (self) righteous when we oppose the bad than when we support the good. This attitude seems to be heightened when we condemn the common enemy in the way specified by the dominant forces of the “in group” which is rallying against the foe. • Honestly, for the lazy and undedicated among us, it is just easier to complain about something than to put in the work to fix it

In today’s society, politicians the media and even some churches and religious leaders try to reinforce the common enemy syndrome in us for their own benefit. And we fall to this impulse because it is natural, almost comforting, to stand against the common foe. But we should not take our cues from ever-changing cultural forces or natural gut feelings. We should take our direction from the unchanging word of God! Jesus doesn’t tell us to actively work against our enemies but He does tell us to support with energy and enthusiasm those among us with the greatest needs (Matthew 25: 34 – 40 and James 1: 27)

Do you have an enemy which consumes too much of your time and emotional energy? Should your New Year’s Resolution be to instead actively and intentionally invest in the people and initiatives you support?

Andy’s book, Clear Vision: How The Bible Teaches Us To View The World, can be purchased here.

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