“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,” Michael Corleone apparently said in The Godfather Part II (1974). Abimelech obviously thought it was a good idea too, in Genesis 26 v 26 – 31, when he puzzled Isaac by coming to visit him, having told him to move away. When that ‘enemy’ is getting particularly rich and powerful, it’s time to move in closer, and keep your eye on what they are up to. It’s also a good plan to tie them into a bargain to ensure they can’t harm you. And that is exactly what Abimelech did. But it suited Isaac too – it’s no use making enemies of people unnecessarily, and so their treaty was duly feasted and toasted.
We need to have our wits about us, and take note of the subtle moves in society around us. My husband has noted that whereas in Christmases past, news presenters and other celebrities have made much of the season, with lots of trimmings and jollity. This year, it has been business as usual. Hardly any mention of the festivities, and certainly none of the babe born in Bethlehem. Programmes rarely feature traditional carols, church services, or any theology. Why? I suspect it is a response to the secular lobby, or those from other religions who want to marginalise ‘Christian’ festivals. In many and various ways we are noticing that Christianity is being gradually and almost unperceptively elbowed out.
We do not consider ‘the world’ to be our enemy, indeed we should be finding ever new ways to ‘love our neighbour’. But sure as eggs is eggs, much of the world considers us to be their enemy. And that is why we need to watch closely. Of course there is need for balance, and we don’t want to be so wrapped up in the ‘evils of this wicked world’ that we forget to worship the God who is in charge. But there is need to pray for the gifts of observation and perception to notice when things are happening around us, and wisdom to know when and how to be proactive. Then we need energy, drive, motivation to pray, act, and stir up others. “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6 v 18)