Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. (Colossians 1:21)
I remember the cold linoleum floor on my face. I had just been knocked down, slugged by a patient on the psychiatric unit where I worked. Screaming voices, profanity and rage came from every direction as staff attempted to calm the situation.
When I looked up, the patient who hit me was being restrained. As I stood and gained my composure, I vividly remember the patient's face. Rage. The tormented enemy in his mind.
According to the apostle Paul, alienation from God creates an enemy of the mind. What is it and what does it mean?
As a psychologist, some enemies of the mind are easier to see than others. The horrible delusions and hallucinations of schizophrenia. The confusion and anger of severe dementia. An alcoholic delirium or methamphetamine psychosis.
But the line blurs when psychological conflict comes from the search for significance, purpose and being. The conflict between love and loss, identity verses ambiguity of self. Self-entitlement instead of humility. Rage eclipsed by grace. Belonging verse rejection. Justice overshadowed by unfairness.
The journey isn’t easy. Despite our best efforts we all fall short. We have good intentions and lofty ideals but we are our own worst enemies.
We all have fears, insecurities and jealousies. We are desperate for love but betray one another. We fight over resources (as basic as toilet paper) for fear of unmet needs. Self-indulgence overrides reason even when it harms both body and mind. Fits of rage, selfish ambition, envy and arguing. As Paul wrote, “We do the very evil we do not wish.” (Romans 7:19) An enemy Paul called “evil behavior.”
Unfortunately we can’t fix it with a pill. It is an enemy that can’t be defeated by psychology, philosophical enlightenment, political parties, Twitter debates or Facebook influencers.
It is an enemy with an insatiable appetite. It devours the self-help industry, motivational seminars and self-help gurus. An enemy who creates repeat customers searching for the next best seller and 10 guaranteed steps to self-esteem.
So where is freedom? Where do we find liberation from the enemy of self-indulgence, self-sufficiency and self-doubts?
Consider these words:
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink...and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22 )
Apply this to the enemy of the mind. Like a bully in the COVID Costco line hungry for his needs over yours, confident he is owed everything. “Give it to me! It’s mine. My groceries. My life. My will.”
What do you do? Feed him! But not with the food of resentment and anger, but with the bread and water of life. The love and grace of Christ.
Listen to the words of Jesus:
“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” ( John 6:27)
“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” ( John 6:35)
Christ liberates us from our hatred and fears. Our insecurities and weaknesses. He conquers the enemy within.
How does he do it?
Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
But it doesn’t stop there. The enemy is defeated not only in our minds but towards one another:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. So use your freedom...to serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)
We can defeat the enemy in our mind and hatred towards one another. There is a solution.
Whereas an enemy will fight an enemy, the one who receives grace will bestow grace. When you experience the freedom of Christ from the enemy of the mind, you pray for your enemy, knowing they too are caught in the torment of hate and alienation from God.
Those set free in Christ want all people to find the forgiveness and love of Jesus. Encouraging one another in love, not hate.
We love and forgive, just as Christ loved and forgave us. Freedom from the enemy of the mind and the enemy of this world.
Dr. David Zuccolotto is a former pastor and clinical psychologist. For 35 years he has worked for hospitals, addiction treatment centers, outpatient clinics and private practice. He is the author of The Love of God: A 70 Day Journey of Forgiveness.