HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS DEAL WITH THEIR ENEMIES?

Does this question make you feel uncomfortable? Does it bother you to think that a child of God would even have enemies? Does it trouble you that you have to deal with people who count you as an adversary?

Each of us may have our own idea about what it means for someone to be an “enemy.” Here are a few definitions for “enemy”: “a person who hates another and wishes or tries to injure him; foe; a nation or force hostile to another; military or wartime adversary . . . a hostile nation; a person hostile to an idea, cause, etc.” [www.yourdictionary.com]. Two “h” words stand out in those statements about enemies: hate and hostile.

I would suggest that not every foe or adversary is an enemy. When people are pursuing the same political office, in the process they may speak of their political “opponents” or “foes,” but in many cases there is no animosity or ill will between them. They are not hateful enemies per se, just as competitors in an Olympic sporting event, while each desires to win, do not necessarily look at those who compete against them as bitter enemies.

In some instances, one party looks on another as a hated enemy, though the second party involved may be unaware of that sentiment or does not share the same feeling toward the first party. For instance, there was a time in King Saul’s life when he counted David as an enemy, though David had no animosity toward Saul and had done nothing to harm the king. The Bible says, “And Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul became David’s enemy continually” (1 Samuel 18:29). David was popular with the common people. That incensed Saul, and in his irrational, jealous way of thinking, that made David his enemy.

“There is no way that a Christian should have even one enemy. There is something wrong when a child of God has people who consider him/her to be an enemy.” Do you agree with those sentiments? Jesus had enemies, would you not agree? There were people who hated Jesus and wanted to do Him harm. They are identified as “His adversaries” (Luke 13:17). Jesus was kind, gentle, and sinless. He spoke the truth in a loving fashion. Still, some despised Him. What does that indicate? That even though a person behaves properly, treats others well, and speaks a message that came from the God of heaven, some will not like him and may even count him as an enemy.

If Jesus was mistreated and counted as an enemy by some, it can happen to us also. Jesus told His apostles, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). When we study the book of Acts and observe the preaching done by Paul, we often see him being persecuted. More than a few people counted him as an enemy. Why? Because he taught the truth and spoke out against false teachings (Galatians 4:16).

Is someone counts me as an enemy, how should I deal with him? If I am made aware of his animosity towards me, I need to ask myself, “What have I done wrong which would cause this person to hate me?” If I have sinned against him/her in any fashion, I need to repent of such and apologize.

What did the Master say about dealing with enemies? He declared, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43,44). Lord, you cannot be serious! Oh, He was one hundred percent serious. In dealing with those who are hostile toward us, the Christ calls on His followers to do certain things. It is not simply “stay out of the line of fire.” When it comes to how we should treat an enemy, read again the verbs in the above verses: love, bless, do good, and pray for. Wow. “There is not a human being on earth who is capable of doing those things!” That is the wrong response. Our Lord would not require us to do anything that is impossible to carry out.

When emotions are involved, it is so difficult to think properly and keep our tongue under control. And yet, our loving Lord calls on us to do those very things: think rationally and control our tongue. God instructs Christians to “do good to all” (Galatians 6:10). Our Father wants each of us to be compassionate, tenderhearted, and courteous (1 Peter 3:8), and He wants us to show such traits unconditionally, meaning we are to treat others in a good, kind way, regardless of how they treat us. No one should conclude that following Jesus and living up to His lofty expectations will be easy!

Not only am I supposed to try and live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18), but the Lord wants me to take action which actually benefits my enemies. Hear these God-given instructions: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink . . .” (Romans 12:20). “But an enemy would never do that same thing for me.” That is hardly the point, is it?!

As Jesus’ disciples, we are called to a higher standard than the way the world “plays.” I am to love my enemies, pray for them, and do good to them, including helping them with their material and spiritual needs. How well are you and I applying these teachings of Jesus in real life in the real world?

— Roger D. Campbell

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