In the War of 1812, one of the deciding battles was the Battle of Lake Erie (which was fought in September of 1813). U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry was credited with the victory which wrested control of Lake Erie from the British and gave the United States the upper hand in the fight to recover Detroit. In the aftermath of the conflict, Perry penned a brief note to Army General William Henry Harrison which read in part: “We have met the enemy, and they are ours”.
Walter Kelly, a prominent cartoonist from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, in his popular but controversial comic strip Pogo, parodied the Perry quote by saying: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Perhaps Walter Kelly was on to something. Perhaps, when looking for significant and positive change in this country, we need to look first at the person who stares back at us in the mirror. I know I read somewhere that attempting to remove sawdust from someone else’s eye is more efficient when I don’t have a fencepost in mine. Those of us who attempt to bring the Biblical Worldview into the public square have a laser-like focus on what the “bad guys” are doing and scheming. We rant and rave about the forces drawn up against our faith and the constant attack on family and freedom. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, by the way. Ask John the Baptist about confronting evil in government. However, we often miss that the bulk of the Bible’s condemnations and criticisms are directed at God’s own people. The constant demands for repentance, both Old Testament and New, surprisingly, are almost all directed toward those in a covenant relationship with Jehovah. When Paul gives his son-in-faith Timothy a description of the “terrible times in the last days” he lists personal traits like lovers of self, lovers of money, unholy, without love, unforgiving, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, etc. Then, just about the time Paul has all of us believers saying “amen” and “preach it” he tags this addendum to the end of the list: “having a form of godliness but denying its power”. What? That entire wretched list is describing the attributes of religious people.
Folks, I have some serious repenting to do. So do you. If your knee-jerk response to that last statement is “not me” then perhaps you could start with pride and work out from there. We are called to transform our culture. But the transformation starts inside each of God’s people and works out from there. In our rush to change the culture for the better we have often skipped the personal transformative first step. To the extent that this is true, we have indeed met the enemy and he is us.
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)