I’ve taken on a new project in the last couple of months as we continue to address the needs of friends without homes in Indianapolis. (Actually, I’ve taken on a couple of new projects in the past two years, which may explain my less frequent blogging.) This particular project is working with the organization that serves as the connecting agency for the Continuum of Care in Indianapolis to help create better communication and collaboration among faith-based outreach organizations to friends without homes. Through this project, we hope to see better collaboration with professional service agencies to find the areas we can agree on in our efforts to end homelessness in Indianapolis.
In the past couple of weeks, I have become more keenly aware of the challenge this will be. There is a history of bad feelings between some segments of the faith community in Indianapolis and professional service agencies around the issue of homelessness. Some of the old wounds do not heal easily. Some attitudes are very deeply entrenched within some of my colleagues in the faith-based outreached community. Sometimes even our different approaches can lead to alienation between different segments of the Church as we address homelessness.
I can’t help but wonder, though, if part of the problem is that we have forgotten who the real enemy is as we take up the cause of some of the most vulnerable of our city’s residents. I am reminded of the words of Paul in his letter to followers of Christ in Ephesus, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NLT). Christians in America, especially Evangelicals, have had a hard time maintaining this distinction. We have gravitated to the language of the culture war that makes enemies of anyone who isn’t in our camp or who approaches the issues in a different way than us. We have refused to find common ground around our goals which are the same. This divisiveness only benefits the real enemy, Satan, who can keep people trapped in a life of hopelessness while those who seek to help them fight each other.
How should we respond when people treat us as enemies because we do not agree on the specifics of how to best assist those in need? The first step should be to recognize the real source of divisiveness and discord. It is the effort of Satan to keep us divided and avoiding the middle-ground solutions that can help others in need. Having recognized who the real enemy is, I need to use the spiritual weapon of prayer to fight the true spiritual battle I am in. Prayer will help us recognize Satan’s goal in the conflict. Through prayer, we can pray for hearts that will be responsive to the Spirit of Truth as God seeks to guide us toward solutions that we can agree on. The first battle I may need to fight is against the efforts of Satan to turn my own heart against others who could be my allies. This may be where the real battle is.