How shall we treat our enemies?
Western Christians live in a culture where few of us have enemies. That for sure will change in the years to come. What is true of perhaps most Christians in most of history will most likely become true of us - unless we compromise the Gospel, in which case we will make friends of the world, not enemies.
Jesus seems to assumes that believers will have enemies in both Mathew 5, "I tell you love your enemies" and Matthew 10, "a man's enemies will be members of his own household."
David's enemy - Saul
Young David was one day going about his business - which was serving God with his gifts of music on the harp and his gifts of fighting skill with a slingshot, when out of the blue he got himself an enemy in the shape of king Saul. Saul was envious of David - very often jealousy is the secret origin of enemies although they will never say so! It's rather an embarrassing confession! In Samuel chapter 24, and in Matthew 5 we learn how to handle enemies, remembering all the time that our warfare is not against people but invisible powers behind those visible enemies.
1. Never fear an enemy - God will protect you
The psalms, so many of them written by David, breathe a quiet confidence in God's protection, "The Lord surrounds the righteous with favour as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:12) So we are never to fear an enemy, for the Lord will protect his people from all harm.
2. Don't believe their lies
One of the sure marks that you have an enemy, is the gradual mist of lies that you become aware of. Saul and his court invented lies about David - that he was a wrongdoer and a rebel against authority. These were precisely opposite to the truth (he was a goldy man and totally loyal to the king). You know an enemy is about when you hear lies told about you. But here's the thing - never believe the lies. True believers are humble and aware of their faults, which gives Satan an opportunity to play with their heads. If you believe the lies told about you - you could go insane. David refused to believe the lies and so did Jesus. Of Him it was said that he was mad and possessed by the devil! If they did this with Jesus (out of envy, Pilate sussed), then it will happen to us. Like the Master, so the follower!
3. Don't trust enemies
This may seem strange for a believer who has read "Love always trusts" (1 Corinthians 13). But the same Scriptures also teach that we are sent out into the world as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10). Christians can be too nice. They can easily go off guard and share with an enemy thinking, "he will change, he can be won." That is don't-have-to-learn-it-the-hard-way folly! Enemies have one agenda - your destruction and you must not trust them one jot. They will take anything you say, twist it and throw it back at you. Although Saul wept in front of David, he remained an implacable enemy and when he went home that night, David went into a stronghold. No fool young David. Never ever trust an enemy! "But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people." (John 2:24).
4. Don't be tempted to respond in kind.
Opportunities to harm your enemy may arise - don't take them. One day David found himself in a cave with Saul. He could have killed him, but just cut off a piece of his robe. He later regretted this action because it was at the very least "a stab" at Saul. Leave all vengeance to God, and don't cut their robe.
5. Don't allow enemies to knock you off course.
There is a strange danger when it comes to enemies. In response to their hatred and lies, it is possible for a believer to go off course themselves, by counterbalance. For example, to become suspicious of all people, or to lose trust in everyone. Or to give up the calling on your life because it was opposed by enemies. We learn from men like Nehemiah never to give up or be deflected from our cause by enemies.
6. Love your enemy
That doesn't mean backtrack on any of the above, but it does mean that when you have an opportunity to help them do so, for in this way you reveal the character of God who loves those who shake their fist at him, giving them both sun and rain.
Loving enemies is among the hardest thing to do - especially if the enemy is still at his dirty tricks. Yet it is God-like and Jesus like, for while we were enemy-sinners Christ died for us. And perhaps as we love our enemies we will give them an opportunity to experience the love and grace of God.
So having enemies, and loving them, can provide us with a unique opportunity to share the Gospel.
This post is taken from our Pastor Roy Summers’ blog, where he discusses and comments on a wide range of current subjects and issues both in the world and in the church.