What Christians who are demanding justice must understand – and accept – is that the gospel doesn’t promise relief from the injustices and inequities of this world. In fact, it promises just the opposite (Jn. 16:33). The world in which you and I live still lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19). Only in the new heaven and earth that are yet to come will unadulterated justice, righteousness, and ethnic harmony be a reality for God’s people (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 7:9).
It is a word that has all but disappeared from our contemporary vernacular. Think about it for a moment. When was the last time you used the word enmity in a sentence or heard someone else use it? Exactly. And yet, despite the rarity of its application in today’s common discourse, enmity carries with it significant weight and substance in both cultural and theological contexts.
The Oxford Dictionary defines enmity as “a state or feeling of active opposition or hostility.” Etymologically, the word enmity has origins in the Old French noun enemistie and the Latin noun inimicus, from which the English word ‘enemy(ies)’ is derived.
In its singular form (because a plural form of the noun appears in Gal. 5:20), the word enmity (אָיַב, ἔχθρα) appears only eight times in Scripture across only five of the Bible’s sixty-six books: Gen. 3:15; Num. 35:21-22; Deut. 4:42; Eze. 25:15, 35:5; and Eph. 2:15-16. In each instance, in both the Old and New Testament, the word denotes an intense and deep hatred and hostility between parties who are enemies of one another.
It is in that same sense that the apostle Paul, in Rom. 5:10, uses what is the Greek word for enmity to unambiguously declare that those who have been reconciled to God, through the atoning work of Christ, were beforehand His “enemies”, “For if while we were enemies [of God] we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
In commenting on Romans 5:10, the 18th-century Bible expositor, Matthew Henry, noted that: “If God justified and reconciled us when we were enemies, much more will he then save us when we are justified and reconciled. The One who has done the greater, which is to change us from enemies to friends, will certainly do the less, which is to treat us in a kind and friendly way when we are friends. The dying Jesus laid the foundation by making atonement for sin and bringing the enmity to an end.”
In his book Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, theologian and author, John Piper, echoes Henry’s sentiments in that, “The gospel of Christ conquers our hearts and brings us to repentance and faith in Christ. Christ enters our lives and dwells within us. All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to him. He commands the unclean spirits, and they obey him (Mk. 1:27). Therefore, into the racial situation the gospel brings the only power that can set people free from the bondage of the Devil. The Devil gives way to no other power than the power of Christ. And the power of Christ moves in the world through those who have believed the gospel and are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.”
A Man Named Jupiter
Because our affinity with the biblical doctrine of enmity is so languid, both within and without the church, its weightiness, particularly regarding the vertical dissonance that exists between inherently sinful human beings and an innately holy God and, conversely, our consequent horizontal disharmony with one another, has been completely lost. But one person on whom this concept was not lost was a man by the name of Jupiter Hammon.
Hammon was born a slave in October 1711 and died a slave sometime around the year 1806. In February 1787, Hammon, who was a poet and the first black person in America to have their literary work published, gave a speech to the African Society of New York entitled An Address to the Negroes of the State of New York (also known as the Hammon Address). In this address, Hammon cautioned his ethnic brethren, “Now you may think you are not enemies to God and do not hate him. But if your heart has not been changed, and you have not become true Christians, you certainly are enemies to God, and have been opposed to him ever since you were born.”