I’ll never forget a scene from the movie Creed. Sylvester Stallone was training a young black boxer. The two of them stood in front of a mirror, and Stallone said something to this effect, “What I found in boxing, as well as in life in general, is that the biggest enemy we have to face is ourselves.”
Indeed, each of us has a great enemy within. He is lazy, judgemental, selfish, rude, prideful, vindictive, obstinate, immoral and dishonest. He only loves himself and what he considers to be an extension of himself (his possessions, his close friends and his family members, if he approves of them). His love is conditional. He only loves those who please him and only to the extent that they please him. He hides under a veil of civility or even, piety, and thus believes that he remains unseen. He may reveal himself much more when he gains power, fame or wealth. Or when he marries, becomes a parent, deals with an inferior, or when money or pride is at stake.
We are nearly blind to his presence within us. He is too woven into the fabric of our beings and, because he always pretends to act in our best interest, we may tolerate, defend and nurture him, and believe that he is good, after all. If we become “people of faith,” he hides all the more, but he does not depart willingly, nor do most of us attempt to root him out. His pretence of piety is as thin as fake gold plating on cheap jewellery. We may cease to use bad language. We may feign humility. We may abstain from overt gossip or openly expressing hatred towards others. Yet, he is still at large in the hidden places of our hearts and, perhaps, more powerful than ever. He now champions his favourite creed and implies that all who oppose him are God’s enemies. He pretends to love the world but secretly hopes that it will be damned. He becomes “God’s policeman,” seeking to remove the speck in his neighbour’s eye, while overlooking the log in his own. He takes offence at the smallest jest. He resents the slightest admonishment. He always needs to have “the last word.” He seeks to control every relationship. He continues his sinful pleasures in secret while publicly condemning those behaviours. He proclaims his undying love for Jesus. Yet, like the Pharisees of old, he crucifies Christ with his hypocritical and perverse heart.
Most likely, as you read my words, you thought of someone other than yourself. Perhaps that person was well described. However, it will do you no good to think of him. Look into your own heart, as I have looked into mine. There you will find the enemy I speak of. If you cannot see him, as I could not see him, ask God for help. Jesus cured many who were blind. Indeed, all of us are blind, at least to some extent. Only God can show us who we really are, behind the masks that we all wear. Ask Him to root out the evil within yourself. Wage war against your enemy within. With God’s help, you and I will win.