For the most part, I don’t think I have any human enemies. I know folks that don’t like me, but I wouldn’t classify them as enemies. But then again, a successful enemy is able to blind-side you, to bring you down without you even knowing it. Perhaps that is why Satan is so effective. We let our guard down and don’t always see him as an enemy. But, I’m getting ahead of myself… I don’t want to talk about our spiritual enemies, yet. Today, I want to focus on human enemies. Specifically, I’m interested in what Scripture says should be our attitude towards them.
EN’EMY, n.: A foe; an adversary. A private enemy is one who hates another and wishes him injury, or attempts to do him injury to gratify his own malice or ill will. (Webster)
This definition brings up more questions… What is hate? What type of injury? Who defines “ill will”?
Is someone who disagrees with you considered an enemy? In our volatile and unsettling political landscape, we have two parties that seem to be enemies of each other. Which is strange because everyone should be on the same side, fighting for what is right and good for America. After all, don’t we all want to make America great again? Of course, we may disagree on the best approach, but the hatred, animosity, and venom coming out of D.C. is sickening. But, I’m not here to talk about politics… Maybe some other time.
Regardless of whether or not we include those who don’t like us in the category of enemies, what we are going to see applies to all relationships. However, these principles apply specifically to those we consider enemies.
THE BIBLE RECORDS NINE WAYS WE ARE TO RESPOND TO OUR ENEMIES. Over the next week, we will look at all nine of them. Let’s start with the first three:
- Love them. What? No way, not possible. Yet, Jesus was clear when He said: “But to you who are listening, I say: Love your enemies…” (Luke 6:27). Love is simply meeting needs. This means you must find out what your enemy needs, and meet that need. I struggle with this because the last thing I want to do is spend enough time with my enemy to learn what they truly need. I may know they need a swift kick in the rear, or to admit their mistakes. But, what do they think they need? That takes time, that takes sacrifice.
- Bless them. Here is another one that is near impossible. Bless them? Jesus continues, “bless those who curse you…” (Luke 6:28). Paul adds, “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). The last thing I want to do when my enemy is near is to bless them. Here is someone who has been hurting me (emotionally, spiritually, or physically) and all I can think about is revenge. But Scripture is clear, I am to bless them. Bless means “To pronounce a wish of happiness to one; to express a wish or desire of happiness.” We not only pray for them (we’ll talk about that in a minute), but we are to wish them happiness, success, prosperity… bless them? Tough words.
- Lend to-invest in them. Jesus continues His instruction: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back…” (Luke 6:35). It is bad enough that I must love and bless my enemies, but now Jesus wants me to invest in them? This means not only giving them material goods, which I might be able to do, but investing in people means giving up the precious resource of time. It means sacrificing something that I can never get back. Time is valuable, and we must lend to them, unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. It may also mean giving them gifts. And I’m not talking about books centered around how awful of a person they are. It means thoughtful gifts, gifts that take time to think through. As a pastor, I occasionally get books left on my desk with no notes or explanation, which leaves me guessing as to the motive. My favorite two have been one on preaching (so, is this a “hint” that I need to work on my preaching-I’m trying!) and one on parenting (my daughter is amazing, and so is my wife, so I didn’t know what to think about this one). Perhaps these are people who are trying to invest in me-so thank you!
As we go through these responses, perhaps some names of people who are “enemies” of yours are coming into your mind. Start looking for tangible ways to love, bless, and lend to them. I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially any practical experiences you have with these.