Have you ever had someone who just seems to be out to get you? Day in and day out, each week and every month it’s like they set little traps with their words to annoy or frustrate you. Sometimes we deal with people who are actively in our face bullying us, dragging our reputation through the mud and making our lives miserable. While you may not have initiated this dynamic and have no desire to participate in it, what you may be dealing with is an enemy.
An enemy is someone who is antagonistic and in opposition to another person. So, what is the best way to deal with an enemy? The world offers all kinds of advice on self-confidence and how to assert yourself… your natural inclination might be to cower and avoid or marginalize such a person. Maybe you’re the type of person who is ready to setup a cage fight in the parking lot, while others are more subtle and will use “cyber warfare” to spread vindictive lies about the person to bring them down.
But what is the biblical approach to dealing with enemies? How would Jesus have us respond to those who are antagonistic and in opposition to us? To find the best tools and ways to deal with an enemy, check out what Jesus taught in the second half of Luke 6. Throughout these verses Jesus is teaching us to not just forgive our enemies, but to bless them and love them! This may seem extremely challenging, and it would be impossible for any of us to actually live this teaching without the Holy Spirit.
So, take a deep breath, ask God for understanding and the ability to live this out and notice how Jesus gives us hope by loving our enemies.
27“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
To be clear, Jesus isn’t teaching us to endure abuse, but rather he is using a proverbial expression to teach us to let go of the things we hold dearest: our pride and possessions. It’s never easy to be nice to someone who has chipped away or, worse yet, has gouged away at our reputation and patience. But Jesus isn’t teaching us to be nice, he’s telling us the correct response to an enemy is to love them. Bless them. Pray for them. Offer them the best you have available. Set aside your pride and speak well of the person. Find a way to use the abilities, faculties and resources you possess to communicate and show love to the people who are actively opposing you and making your life difficult.
32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
As we learn to treat our enemy the way we want to be treated, we shouldn’t be shocked or dismayed when they’re unwilling or unable to repay. In the same way Jesus gave his life regardless of the response of those he died for we need to show mercy, forgiveness and love to those around us. Even those actively making our lives harder. We don’t get to pick and choose who is going be an enemy towards us, and we don’t get to pick and choose who to forgive and love depending on what we will get back from them. They may never take responsibility and repent! But our job as Christians is not to coerce someone into repenting by forgiving them and loving them, our job is to forgive and love people by forgiving and loving them the same way Jesus forgives and loves us: selflessly and freely. “He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
The point in this isn’t to blindly love and forgive and walk away and call it a day. There is a deeper purpose in this lesson I believe Jesus wants to sink in so we can change how we process and deal with an enemy. Even though we love and forgive without the ulterior motive of seeing our enemy proved wrong or for them to reciprocate the love we show them, there is very real and powerful hope: a person can find freedom and receive the same mercy which made us free from our pain and shame as we forgive and love them. Let’s see what we can learn from Proverbs 25:21-22 about this:
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.
In the same way burning coals can thaw ice and melt steel, kindness has a way of changing even the iciest heart of steel when done with the right motive and through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are all hungry, we are all thirsty, and we have all been an enemy of God at one point in our lives, but in His mercy he showed us kindness by sending Jesus to pay the price for our selfish sin. He went even further by giving us the Holy Spirit to transform us into people who extend the same forgiveness and love we’ve received by our Father, even though we didn’t deserve it or earn it.
Pray and ask God today for a creative idea to bless your enemy, then trust and rely on the Holy Spirit to empower and transform you!