It seems that life is filled with enemies of all sorts of shapes and sizes. From the business world who can destroy our way of earning a living, to difficulties within families that lead to severe falling outs, to the spiritual minded who teach different doctrines or changes the Gospel (Gal. 1:6-9), Christians are guaranteed to have enemies (Jn. 15:20). But, how should Christians treat their enemies?
An enemy is defined as a hostile group of people. The Bible defines it as one you oppose or hate, displaying hatefulness toward another. When someone treats us in the wrong way, the world teaches us that we should lash out in response to that wrong and defend ourselves. “Let them have it” is what the world says. Now, we usually demand what is just or fair to all parties as dictated by our reasoning and our conscious. We feel that something must be done to them who harmed us. That is vengeance. Vengeance is the act of inflicting pain on another, harming someone in retaliation to the point that they begin to feel the way they made us feel. But, is this what a Christian has a right to do? Consider what God said, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19-21).
Our dear Jesus gave us the perfect example of this type of attitude throughout His life. His enemies were from the physical, financial, family and spiritual realms. Since we are to follow in the steps of Jesus, we are to follow in His actions towards His enemies. Consider what else God said, “. . . Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:” (2 Pet. 2:21-23).
When people who are hostile toward us and treat us in a way that would cause most people to form hatefulness in their hearts, how are we suppose to respond to them? Do we retaliate against them or do we “give place unto wrath?” When we are reviled and insults are thrown at us, do we throw insults back at them or choose not to retaliate? Do we threaten or threaten not? Do we seek to make our own verdict or do we commit ourselves to the righteous judge? Do we overcome with evil or with good (Rom. 12:21)?
When we retaliate against another, we sin and worse, we make ourselves the enemy of God (Isa. 59:1-2). We need to keep in mind that God, in all His righteous might, has the only right to take vengeance. Because of our lives, He has all reason to take vengeance on us. But, instead of doing this, He decided to give us a way that we could be reconciled to Him, through His Son, Jesus. What we could not do for ourselves, God did for us, while we were enemies (Rom. 5:6-10).
We might want to let our enemies have it (an eye for an eye), but we need to let them have our mercy and love. They deserve it, not because they are our enemies, but because we were once God’s enemy and that is how God looked upon us in the same way. If we treat them any other way is to invite the same judgment upon us. It seems that the greatest test of the Christian is how we treat our enemies. The same test is how God will judge us as well. Dear Christian, “. . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matt. 5:44).