I am a movie buff. I enjoy movies that make me think, that entertain me, that inspire me, or that simply make me laugh. Recently, I got around to watching a 2005 movie called Kingdom of Heaven. In it, a Muslim prince named Nasir parts with a Christian knight by saying, “Your quality will be known among your enemies, before ever you meet them.”
What does it mean to have an enemy? Enemies oppose one’s values, one’s beliefs, or one’s very existence. Enemies can be the result of certain stands on issues, because of political or military loyalties, or for numerous more personal or for more insignificant reasons. We may have enemies of which we are unaware, or we may ourselves feel opposed to one unaware of our own feelings. Enmity happens. What, then, as Christians should we do about it?
Are we authorized by scripture to have enemies, though? The word enemy is used over 300 times in the New American Standard translation of the Bible. Most are assurance of God for protection from enemies. Some are appeals to God for that protection, and a few discuss our handling of personal enemies. In Matthew 10:22, Jesus begins discussing the fact that there will be those who oppose the apostles’ efforts. They will set themselves against the apostles and even hate them. While we should not seek to create enemies (Romans 12:18), being a disciple of Christ will result in those who oppose us.
With this in mind, how are we to conduct ourselves around those who oppose our beliefs, our values, or even our existence. Luke 6:35 calls on us to do good toward those who might be enemies, and Romans 12:20 calls on us to be charitable toward those set against us. We are not instructed to treat an enemy differently than a friend. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus calls on us to control our anger in Matthew 5:22. He goes on to instruct those around Him to avoid retaliation (Matthew 5:39) and to go as far as caring for and praying for those who are hostile toward us (Matthew 5: 43-48). It’s easy to love a friend and hate an enemy, but Jesus challenges us to love both. We should not mistreat those who mistreat us. There should be no distinction in conduct between how we treat those who stand with us versus those who stand against us.
We do need the courage to stand for our faith and our God. We need faith in God’s protection, and we need the strength of character to demonstrate love to those who oppose us. We need to treat them with kindness and mercy as Christ has treated us – going as far as dying on our behalf even when we were set at enmity against Him according to Romans 5:8-10. Paul never cast stones back upon those who sought to kill him. Stephen did not fight the Pharisees stoning him. Jesus did not destroy those who crucified Him. Rather, He asked for their forgiveness. We should be as merciful to those who mistreat us.
lesson by Brad Rosene