From this discussion of Jesus on Gehenna we see his view on who God’s enemies really are. They are not other nations, as the Jews supposed, and as we may also suppose today. It wasn’t the enemy nations that drove Israel out of the land, but their own unfaithfulness to God. So their real enemy was their own unresponsive heart.
This makes perfect sense when we think of Jesus’ message. If his message was about establishing our national kingdoms, then the other nations would clearly be our enemies. That is the way we traditionally think of enemies. That is why we think of war as the answer. But if Jesus’ message was about the coming of a new type of kingdom, within our communities and relationships, then the view of who our enemies are and how they would be defeated would be very different.
God’s enemies are death, disease, corruption, selfcentredness and the works of the flesh. These work within our own lives and cause harm in our relationships with others. If these are our real enemies, then subjecting these in our own lives and relating to our natural enemies with service would make sense. The commands Jesus gave to his disciples are about building his kingdom, not protecting our own. This is the only way his statements like, “If someone sues you for your coat, give him your shirt also”, and, “Give to everyone who asks, and do not ask for it in return,” makes sense. There is nothing unclear about what Jesus is saying. It just doesn’t make sense in the context of nationalism, or our presumption of our private rights. These are the things that Jesus clearly gave up in his incarnation. The gospel message is that this is how God’s way of ruling comes amongst us.
Dealing with the enemies in our own life becomes our new strategy for helping others: “Taking the log out of our own eye, so we can see properly how treat and heal those around”. This is the new way of life for God’s new kingdom; a new way of making war. It may hurt us, as it hurt Jesus, but won’t hurt others, as Jesus hurt nobody. Rome’s way of building the future makes future enemies, and we are still left with the damage of that today.