Siblings can be so petty. As a mother, it seems that some days are spent refereeing more than anything else. There are times one of our boys is convinced his brother is his arch-enemy…the source of all his woes and problems.
And, yes, usually his brother has wronged him in some way and needs to confess that fault in order to restore the relationship. Yet, whatever my son’s perception is, his brother is not really his enemy. Most often the real enemies he ought to be fighting are villains such as pride, selfishness, anger, or bitterness – all also known as the flesh. His antagonists might also be temptations or attacks straight from the devil himself.
After all, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Sometimes, it seems, one of my sons will wrestle his brother when his brother isn’t the antagonist he needs to be wrestling at all…while his real antagonist defeats him unawares.
Maybe this is one reason we children of God are referred to as brothers and sisters. Don’t we also, within the Church, wrestle with one another over things that, ultimately, don’t really matter?
Sometimes, we really need to step back and see that the brother or sister we’re wrestling against isn’t our antagonist – though he or she may have indeed wronged us. He or she is our sibling, whom our Father has commanded us to love, and whose relationship we should want to restore as soon as possible.
Perhaps, rather than wrestling for our perceived rights or our image or the last word, we should wrestle to fulfill the ‘marching orders’ given by Paul in the chapters preceding Ephesians chapter 6. Perhaps we should fight for unity with our brothers and sisters (Eph 4:1-3, 13), fight to walk in love (Eph 5:2), fight to live lives worthy of our calling in Christ (Eph 4:1). Perhaps we should fight to speak honestly, put away bitterness and anger and evil speaking while fighting to be kind and tender-hearted toward one another (Eph 4:25-32).
Because, sometimes (maybe even most of the time?), the stuff we’re wrestling with each other over isn’t more important than obeying these commands. Contending for major issues of orthodox faith is one thing, but treating one another as enemies due to differences in secondary matters while ignoring commands to pursue unity is a completely different matter, and it’s wrong.
Sometimes we are so hurt by a brother/sister – or so bogged down in frustration over his/her words or behavior or convictions – that we have to consciously remind ourselves that he/she is not our enemy. Sometimes we have to beg God in prayer to give us His heart for that person and help us to see past the argument at hand in order to love the person — only then can we discuss the issue in a way that fulfills our ‘marching orders’. Only then can we see our true antagonist(s), and wrestle for victory over what really matters.