Who are our enemies? Where do they appear?
For most of us who are working, the most likely enemies are found at the workplace. Or it could even be our extended family. But they will be around.
We have witnessed the inability of Christians to handle difficult situations with their enemies, resulting in the building up of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. Some even went on to pursue vengeance.
For people who have guns, should we even return fire?
What does the Bible has to say about this?
B134 - Love our enemies
‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’
In Luke 6:28, it goes further with these words,
‘Bless those who curse you; pray for those who abuse you.’
The Greek word for ‘love’ is agapao which means ‘a discriminating affection which involves choice and selection’; it is what God prefers as he is love.
Christians are told to specifically ‘love our enemies’.
Who are our enemies?
Are they not those who mock us, persecute us, lie about us, or simply take advantage of us?
It must be one of the hardest things to love our enemies. The devil in fact wants to perpetual hate and discord even among Christians.
‘For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? … You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt 5:46-48).
It is counter intuitive. It is a sacrificial form of love that brought Jesus to earth.
See also B135 to B140, Relationship with enemies.
B135 - Do good to them that hate us
‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.’
Rom 12:20 has some practical suggestions –
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.’
When we have people that hate us, what practical things can we do to demonstrate our love for them? Here are some to consider:
- Help them when they are in a tight spot,
- Bless them (Rom 12:14),
- Pray for them,
- Rejoice and mourn with them (Rom 12:15),
- Serve them,
- Meet their physical needs,
- Forgive them if they have offended you.
We are to choose love rather than hate.
B136 - Lend and hope for nothing in return
Luke 6:35 reads,
‘But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.’
It suggests that we should lend and not expect to receive back. In other words, do practical things to demonstrate love that is counter-intuitive to our human nature.
Allow the Holy Spirit to direct our actions. Just do not hate them.
B137 - Do the opposite of what our enemies expect us to do
Even as Jesus was crucified, he could have called for his heavenly army to retaliate. But the Lord chose the way of the cross.
Luke 6:30 says,
‘Give to everyone who begs from you and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.’
It is an attitude of not fighting back even if it is within our rights to do so.
‘Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called.’
Do the opposite of what our enemies anticipate us to do.
B138 - Do not seek vengeance but let God act on our behalf
How tempting it is to seek revenge. Many Hollywood movies have used ‘revenge’ as a theme. It is a natural outflow of anger and bitterness but Jesus’ way is not the way of the world.
Rom 12:19 says,
‘Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’’
The Lord is our redeemer.
In 2 Thes 1:6, God promises us that he will repay those who trouble us.
Hence, never take our own action because someone has wronged us but leave that to God to act. Our action is still to bless our enemies.
That is why violent protests and civil disobedience are not something that Christians should get involved in.
Matt 5:39 says, ‘Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’
NB: These teachings represent a personal response. It maybe different for nations as wars may result under very difficult and different situations.
B139 - Pray for those who spite us
In the Beatitudes, Jesus reminded believers to
‘Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you’ (Luke 6:27-28).
Prayer is powerful. Prayer helps to rid us off our own bitterness and increases our ability to forgive. It changes our inside and our spirit. When we face people we consider as enemies, we usually have four options:
- Exact revenge – where the enemy also suffers while we gloat over their mishaps. It does nothing good to our embittered spirit as we go about scheming and planning against our enemy.
- Hate them with absolute hatred – at which point it achieved nothing for us but the bitterness may cause hardship within ourselves and our family members,
- Struggle to hold back our anger – which then exhaust us emotionally, or
- Pray for God to bless them – which opens the door for God to bless us too because God promises us rewards (Luke 6:35) – ‘But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.’
What do we pray for? We pray for the Lord to bless them.
B140 - Be prepared to be killed by the enemies for the Gospel
The ultimate situation is when the enemy kills a believer. Jesus promised believers in John 15:18 that
‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you.’
The bottom line is that as the world draws towards the end of times, hatred for Christians will grow more and more.
The enemy will try to kill some of us. James, the brother of John the disciple and one of the three closest disciples of Jesus, became the first Christian martyr in Acts 12:2. He fulfilled Jesus’ words that
‘They (the enemies of Jesus) will put you (believers) out of the synagogues. Indeed the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God’ (John 16:2).
Even then, as believers, we must remember both the words of Jesus and that of Stephen the martyr. As Stephen laid there dying and witnessed no doubt by Paul before his conversion, his final words were,
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them (his enemies)’ (Acts 7:60); he was still praying for his enemies despite what they had done to him.