Enemies. We all have them even if we don’t know who they are. In my last blog, we looked at the first three biblical responses to our enemies.
How’d you do with loving, blessing, or lending to your enemies? Did you get spit upon? Attacked more? Did you start to see their heart soften? Please comment below and let me know!
We continue with the next three responses.
- Do good to them. Twice in Luke 6, Jesus says we are to “do good” to our enemies (vv. 27 and 35). This means we are to be merciful, gracious, benevolent, cheerful towards, happy for, comforting, and pleasant. There is a lot contained in the simple phrase to “do good.” Once again, we find ourselves going out of our ways to bring joy to our enemies. We look for ways to make them happy, to help them fulfill their dreams and desires. This is all starting to sound counter-cultural. We live in a dog-eat-dog world, where we are told we must look out for number one (with number one implied as being yourself). But Jesus’ words flip the cultural standard upside down. We are to be humble, to be low, to be a servant, to seek the good of others, even our enemies, above our own welfare.
- Pray for them. “Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28); “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This one is easy, at least in theory. Prayer means I can keep them at an arms distance. That I don’t have to get close to them, physically anyway. What I have experienced though is another story. When I start praying for someone that may be my enemy, I notice that my heart changes. I start to genuinely care about them. When I am in conflict with someone, I have to pray for them. Oftentimes, God changes my heart enough to where I can truly start to love, bless, lend to, and do good for them. On a lighter note, this reminds me of a country song. Yes, I said a country song. Here are some of the lyrics:
I haven’t been to church since I don’t remember when
Things were goin’ great ’til they fell apart again
So I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do
He said you can’t go hatin’ others who have done wrong to you
Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn
Let the good Lord do His job and you just pray for them
I pray your brakes go out runnin’ down a hill
I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you in the head like I’d like to
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls
I pray you’re flyin’ high when your engine stalls
I pray all your dreams never come true
Just know wherever you are honey, I pray for you
I’m really glad I found my way to church
‘Cause I’m already feelin’ better and I thank God for the words
Yeah I’m goin’ take the high road
And do what the preacher told me to do
You keep messin’ up and I’ll keep prayin’ for you
I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind… In fact, I know this isn’t the type of prayer Jesus had in mind. I think David’s words from Psalm 35 are more appropriate: “Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to me, ‘I am your salvation.’” (vv. 1-3). David prays for justice and vengeance to be in God’s hands alone. We ask for God to be our defender. As I often say, truth wins.
- Do not rejoice when they fall. The writer of Proverbs says “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them” (24:17-18). Since we know that truth wins, and that God is justice, it is only a matter of time until our enemy has to answer for what happened. If this occurs before judgment day, and we are around to witness it, we are not to rejoice or let our heart yell “yipeeeee!” We are to remain humble and continue to pray for them.
These three responses to our enemies are hard enough. When you add the first three and the next three, they become impossible. So, I want to pause and let you know that you are NOT going to be able to do this by your own will power. I often tell our church that the commands in Scripture are not “try harder stupid” commands. They include some assumptions that we must understand. First, we respond to our enemies this way because they are also made in the image of God. They are deeply loved by God, and we should love them as well. Second, if we were to truly evaluate our own sin, we would see just how much God has forgiven us, how much grace has been shown to us. In turn, we would forgive and extend grace, no matter what our enemy has done. All sin hurts the heart of God. Finally, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to live holy and pleasing lives. Our strength is never enough.
Next time, we finish up our biblical responses to our enemies.