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Living together is the future

Meditation by WCC general secretary by Sant’Egidio Prayers for Peace – Sarajevo September 11, 2012

01 January 1970

By Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary, World Council of Churches

Text: Romans 8:31-35

If God is for us, who is then against us?


I do not believe in the concept of “enemy.” As believers in God through the witness of Jesus Christ, we should not believe in the concept of enemy.  Because we believe in God. Because in Christ Jesus, God is for us.

Being here in Sarajevo, we are reminded that when the concept of neighbour is turned into the concept of enemy, everybody will lose, maybe even their lives.

The concept of enemy will destroy not only those whom we make our enemy, but also ourselves. The fear will not be overcome, but we will be overcome by fear.

I do see that human beings might become enemies. Some of you have learned that reality in a very dramatic way. We know that human beings living in the same city or land can be - and even today - are fighting against one another, killing one another. We know that some are not, or do not, seem to be able to live together. We know from the first pages of the Bible that even brothers and sisters can become hostile and even hate one another.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we know that some might see us as enemies; Jesus said that we might be persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven. Paul wrote that we were and still might be the enemies of God, when we are acting against the will and purpose of God for humankind (Romans 5).

This day, September 11, shows us that even religion can be used as a motivation and pretext for the worst and most cruel actions against humankind, the ultimate effect of treating one another as enemies. July 22 has become the same warning for my fellow Norwegians – and us, Europeans. Terror is terror whatsoever the motivation might be. There are unbelievable depths of enmity, also, or maybe even more, harboured in the name of protecting or promoting religion.

Still, or rather, because of all this, we should not believe in the concept of enemy as a way forward. To define anybody as my enemy will not help me or anybody else. I do not believe that using this concept of being in unity against somebody to organize our lives together as Christians, as churches, as human beings, will bring us one single step forward towards the peace we are longing and praying for. The history of religious wars should forever remind us of that. The history of Christianity is unfortunately also a history of the concepts of enemies.

During these days here in Sarajevo, God calls us to give up our inclination to define others as our enemies. This calling is not naive, rather to the contrary. Tonight we are called to another future. We were reconciled to God by the death of Christ. Everything, even hatred and death, looks different through the love of Christ, even if these powers do not disappear. We who are carrying the name of Christ are called to live humbly together with the other, without defining him or her as our enemy.

Why?  Because we believe in God, who has come to us in Christ Jesus. The grace of God, the justification of sinners, drives us to repentance, frees us to give up our concept of the enemy, and enables us to look for another future of life together. Because God also loves those who might call us enemies.

We are liberated to carry the cross of Christ under any circumstances, with faith, hope and love. Not for crusades, but in solidarity with the suffering world. As a sign of the core of the Christian message: God is for us. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; therefore, Jesus calls us to love our enemies.

“If God is for us, who is then against us?”