Guidelines For Our Relationship With Our Enemies
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Focus of This Message: Our Relationship With Our Enemies
Any believer who lives for the Lord is going to have enemies! Why? Because Christ came into the world to uncover sin, call people to repentance and show them the way salvation. Now, I can tell you this, no one likes his or her sins exposed! Our Lord said "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." John 3:19-20.
There are many who are enemies of Christ and his Cross. They refuse to bow to His authority and acknowledge that what they are doing is sin! Paul put it this way "(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)" Philippians 3:18-19
When a believer stands as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) before his or her peers as we are supposed to, there will be people who hate you and look at you as the enemy. The Apostle Paul experienced this when he confronted the Galatians. He wrote, "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" Galatians 4:16
The godly Christian does not have to do anything but live for Christ to make an enemy, because the godly Christian is naturally enemy of anyone who desires to live a worldly life. It is the Christians identity with their Holy Savior that causes him or her to be the enemy of the unholy sinner. Our Lord reminded us, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;" John 15:18-20a.
So, how is the Christian to respond to his or her enemies?
The Greek word translated recompense is apodidwmi apodidomi (ap-od-eed'-o-mee; 591), which means do not requite, repay or give back. In the context we are told not to return evil for evil. In other words, Paul puts an injunction or ban on a spirit of and or actions of retaliation and revenge. The Christian is neither to return evil words for evil words, railing for railing; nor evil deeds for evil deeds, one malicious turn for another. Further, you are not to take the law into your own hands and inflict what seems to you just punishment. Simply stated, we may not extract personal revenge and retaliation from our enemy. It is forbidden! Recompense to no man evil for evil.
This is a somewhat difficult phrase. Hereís why I say that. The Greek word translated provide means to think about in advance. The word honest means outward expressions of that which is good. Therefore, what is in focus in this verse is this. The Christian needs to remember that his testimony is at stake. He or she must be careful to behave like a Christian before all men, even those who treat him wrongly because the reputation of Christ is at sake.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this message, there are times when we are hated for Christís sake. Christians are often lied about, gossiped about, harassed without cause and even worse. But, it is Godís will that we do not respond in kind! We need to follow the pattern of our Lord. "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:" 1 Peter 2:23
There are two additional passages from Peterís first book that we should look at here. They both emphasize the importance of keeping a Christian testimony even in the presence of those who treat us wrongly.
1 Peter 3:16 "Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ."
1 Peter 2:15 "For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:"
To summarize briefly, we are to behave like a Christian before all people, even those who treat us wrongly. Letís move on to the third way Christians are to respond to their enemies.
The command in this verse is naturally connected with what is contained in verse 17, Recompense to no man evil for evil. So, instead of resenting every offense, we should do all we can to live at peace the offender. When a person seeks revenge, this naturally leads to contention and strife. However, if you are willing to forgive, this often leads to peace. But, Paul knows that peace is not always within our control. Paul limits his command by saying, if it be possible, as much as lieth in you. In other words, the cause of the conflict must not begin with you. Your duty is to preserve peace if you can.
Letís review briefly how Christians are to respond to their enemies:
Letís move on to the fourth way Christians are to respond to their enemies.
The apostle James reminds us, "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." James 1:20 In fact, it is Godís prerogative to take vengeance, not ours. Verse 19 is clearly saying, "Do not take revenge yourselves, my brethren, but withdraw from the fight, for it is not you but God who has a right to take vengeance."
I am sure that Paul had in mind Deuteronomy 32:35 when, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he wrote verse 19. "To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste." Deuteronomy 32:35 We must trust God to right the wrongs that have been done to us, according to His will. He is the lawgiver and the righteous judge. (See Prov. 24:19-20 & Psalm 37).
Next, on to the fifth way Christians are to respond to their enemies.
Paul reaches back to Proverbs 25:21-22 for this passage -- "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: 22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee."
He is saying in essence, a Christian must be an enemy to no man, but he cannot prevent others from being enemies to him; but instead of avenging their injuries, they are bound to do good to them. Our Lord tells us in Matthew 5:44 "But I say unto you, 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;"
This kind of conduct is so opposite to nature it can never be genuinely achieve by the natural man. It is only to be accomplished by the power of God through faith. It is the fruit of the new birth only. Further, returning good for evil may even soften the enemy and if it does not, it will eventually add to their guilt and punishment.
Verse 21 summarizes this entire section -- "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
Letís review. These are five ways Christians are to respond to their enemies:
As I mentioned in our last point, it is impossible to do these five things
unless Jesus Christ is your personal Savior and in control of your life. If Jesus Christ is not
your Savior, I would urge you to repent of your sins and receive Him TODAY.