7 May 2014 by Tony Dibble –
The Christian is a child of GOD. He should therefore act as GOD does and expects. GOD loves His enemies but hates their sin, whilst their time on earth is still available. Therefore, the Christian has no basis to hate any person: he himself had been an enemy of GOD but has now been redeemed. The Christian is therefore not to resent his enemy.
The Christian is, instead, to love his enemy. Matthew 5:38-48 shows what this amounts to. Neither is the Christian to deprive his enemy of anything that the enemy needs desperately (Prov 25:21-22). GOD gives the sun and the rain to all mankind and shows no distinction in his treatment of individuals (Matt 5:45). Proverbs 24:17 & 18 contained an instruction not to rejoice when our enemy fails, nor to be glad when he stumbles.
1. Focus on the gospel
The Christian is to teach the gospel to the unsaved (Matt 28:19-20). He should not, therefore, have enemies as he is to do the work of GOD. A Christian with a grudge against someone will be of no use in GOD’s army: he is as good as being in the devil’s camp.
The Christian is, of course to draw a line against the sin of others: he is to warn them of the consequences in continuing with their sin. He must segregate the sin from the sinner. But he must not segregate the sinner as the sinner is the Christian’s mission field.
2. Justice is GOD’s business
Vengeance is solely the Lord’s realm (Romans 12:19). We must not play GOD. Revenge, retaliation or retribution should not be exercised by us. This applies no matter how badly others may have attacked or victimised us. We do not repay evil with evil (Rom 12:17 & 21). There is no place for evil by man, to man, individually. Control of our own lives is to be under the Holy Spirit.
3. Christ’s example
Christ prayed for the forgiveness of His persecutors because they did not know what they were doing (Luke 23:34).Our enemies often do not know the extent of the harm that they inflict on us.
4. The example of the first martyr
Steven was the first martyr in the early church. He was stoned to death. Yet whilst this was going on, he prayed for his persecutors to be forgiven (Acts 7:60).
5. The correct perspective of the enemy
However, this does not imply that the Christian has no enemies. The devil is Christian’s enemy and evil is also his enemy. We are instructed to resist evil and the devil (Eph 6:12; Jas 4:7; 1Pet 3:9-11).
6. The ultimate development of a person
Archbishop Chrysostom (347 – 407) called the love of enemies the supreme development of a man. This is the perfection to be attained (Matt 5:48).
To the religious leaders, the tax collectors were viewed as ‘cutthroats and robbers’, a despised socio-economic class[ J R Dummelow (ed), “A Commentary on the Holy Bible by Various Writers”].Christ said that even the tax collectors loved and had regard for each other; hence it was of no merit to merely love or respect one’s own associates. Love and regard had, of course, to extend beyond a limited circle to one’s enemies (Matt 5:46 & 47). (Christ never hated tax-collectors—he recruited one, Matthew as His apostle).
7. Anvil and doormat
A Christian may have to be the anvil (the receiving end of the blacksmith’s hammer) according to Charles Spurgeon. He could expect to be attacked unjustly by his enemies, to no end. ‘Patient forgiveness’ and ‘mighty patience’ is to be the response of the Christian in such situations (C H Spurgeon, “The Gospel of the Kingdom”). The Christian is not expected to retaliate nor seek revenge.
However, the Christian, when accused falsely, should set the record straight. But he should not do this in a retaliatory fashion: this should be done tactfully and not arrogantly. John Stott says that a Christian is not expected to be a ‘doormat’ taking things passively, without a reasonable response from himself (J R W Stott, “The Message of the Sermon on the Mount”). Christ had explained Himself to the high priest and to Pilate when there were charges made against Him (John 18:19-23; 33-37).
8. Four Examples
When responding to the actions of our enemy, there is to be no retaliation in the slightest way from us; neither by violence nor through legal action (Matt 5:39 & 40). We should not refuse to follow government orders despite their exacting nature (soldiers would demand that their baggage be carried some distance–a mile at times–when they marched through towns) (Matt 5:41). Neither should a Christian refuse to respond to the needs (as opposed to wants) of others (Matt 5:42).The Christian is expected to be above the flesh.
9. Generating Love
Our goodness to the enemy should be exceptional (Prov 25:22). Heaping coals over their head implies making them warm. Our thoughts, words and actions may be lawful but we must not be under the power of these things (1 Cor 6:12). Hatred is one such thing: there is no law against hatred. Relationships were to be based on love and not mere cold ‘calculated’ justice. The generating of love overrides the exercise of our legal rights. The message of the Bible has this thread throughout: legalism has to be set aside by love. This is the crux of John 3:16 & 17. “For GOD so loved the world….”
Passive resistance, a form of ‘civil’ retaliation, is not the equivalent of active love. This has a limited objective.
According to Exodus 23:4& 5, if an enemy’s ox or donkey was lost or was helpless, one was to assist the enemy in ensuring that he had his animal returned. These animals were important for earning a living. Christ told the crowds that they had to now move on up from such mere assistance towards an enemy, to loving the enemy. This was also the whole teaching in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The Samaritan, whose ethnic group was despised by the Jew, showed compassion and care on the Jew who was left to die by the roadside.
Ultimately, we should treat our enemies as we would like to have them treat us; and not as they treat us (Luke 6:31).
When David received the news of his enemy’s (King Saul’s) death, he and his contingent wept, mourned and fasted over the event and he had Saul’s purported killer executed. David considered King Saul the LORD’s anointed to the end (2 Sam 1:1-16).This example of David should not be under-rated.
From Matthew 5:44, we are to:
*Love our enemies;
*Bless those that curse us;
*Do good to those that hate us;
*Pray for those who despitefully use us, and persecute us.
Our love for our enemies is not merely an ethical principle but an active love for them such that they become a part of our lives. And that love can only be derived, if we are in relationship with GOD through constant prayer from Christ. We should not be living in the flesh but in the Holy Spirit where Christ is our strength. Loving our enemies cannot be separated one from the other; to love our enemies, we need to be under the direction of the Spirit.
References for pictures