We’re All a Little Borderline
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
In psychiatry, the borderline personality disorder is defined by multiple symptoms but perhaps the most obvious is a pervasive pattern of unstable relationships. Those with BPD are prone to extremes of idealization or devaluation of others – they love someone and then they hate him or her. There is no middle ground. This is referred to as “splitting”. They think someone is amazing, until that individual does something they don’t like and then that person is the worst villain in the world. I love you, I love you . . . I hate you.
Like most of us, I don’t meet the criteria to be diagnosed with BPD, but also like most of us, I can display some of the symptoms at times. When I meet others, I generally think well of them. It’s my nature to be optimistic. When however, they disagree with me on some topic that is important to me – politics, faith, recovery, or Covid-19 – then I tend to demonize them. I don’t simply accept that they disagree with one of my ideas. I take it personally and I see them as opposing me personally. That person then moves in my brain from a friend category to an enemy category.
This seems to be the kind of error in judgment that Paul is referring to in today’s passage. In it, he reminded us that our true enemy isn’t those who disagree with us. If we believe in God and we believe in a spiritual realm, then we must accept that there are spiritual forces of evil in the world. Those forces are the true enemy.
It seems to be in our nature to forget this. We’re prone to extremes in relationships. We mistakenly think that to be kind and loving to someone we must also agree with them on everything. If we disagree with others on some important subject, then we believe that we must treat them as an enemy. I disapprove of you and I will now treat you poorly so that you see my disapproval. God tells us to love others though, even though they’re on the opposite side of some political, ethnic, or religious spectrum.
As followers of Christ, we must learn to disagree with others and still love them. Yes, they may interpret that as approval or agreement, but that isn’t our concern. Our duty is to show others the love that Christ has shown us, even when we disagree with them. God never asks us to hate others in his name.