While on the path to Jerusalem with His followers, Jesus entered a Samaritan village and requested the usual accommodations for weary travelers. However, the villagers refused them. Therefore, His disciples asked if they could bring fire down to consume these unwelcoming Samaritans.
It is all too human to hate our enemies, even to want to see them destroyed, especially if they represent a threat to us. I struggle with these same inclinations. However, Jesus saw things differently:
· But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." (Luke 9:55-56; NKJV)
Elsewhere, Jesus taught:
· "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
But how can we live like this? Daily, I struggle to keep an attitude of love towards those who hate me and hate my brethren, even to the point of killing them, forcing them to renounce their faith, and selling them into sex-slavery. However, this is the consistent teaching even of the OT:
· If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the LORD will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22; Romans 12:20)
Here are several teachings to which I resort to arm my mind against hatred and revenge:
We are instructed to not seek revenge:
We are instructed to not seek revenge:
· Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19)
One way that God avenges sin is through the criminal justice system (Romans 13:1-5). Therefore, we can make use of it to bring justice.
We might have enemies, but only in a very temporary sense. Eventually, God will bring His justice upon the unrepentant (Psalm 37; 73). He can also turn our enemies into our friends. The Babylonians had been the enemies of the captive Jews. However, God opened the heart of their enemy, King Nebuchadnezzar, and he elevated Daniel and his Hebrew friends to positions of honor and leadership.
Similarly, God had positioned Pharaoh to elevate Joseph out of his years of torment in an Egyptian jail to make him second over the land of Egypt. Later, Joseph explained to his fearful brethren that this was all according to the plan of God (Genesis 50:20).
Therefore, we need to regard our oppressors as potential friends and allies.
God is able to work everything out for our good, even oppression (Romans 8:28). Besides, whatever our enemy does to us, can only be done with the permission of God. While it is true that we must endure terrible oppression, this too is for good, as God had explained to Daniel:
· “And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering…And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time.” (Daniel 11:33-35)
Although we might not understand every cut that our surgeon performs, we entrust him with our lives. We must also entrust ourselves to our Savior, who has our best interests in mind, even when He turns us over to our enemies.
Our oppressors are not able to take from us what God does not allow. We saw this with Job. The devil was only able to take from Job what God had allowed, and this was only for a specified time. The doors that God opens, no man can close. And what He closes, no man can open (Revelation 3:7).
Consequently, they cannot ultimately harm us. Therefore, Jesus taught us to not fear our enemies (Matthew 10:28-30). Even if they take away our lives, we go to a better place.
We are divinely equipped to stand confidently before our enemies:
· Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, (Philippians 1:27-29)
The Lord will provide:
· You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. (Matthew 10:18-20)
What a joy and a privilege to live courageously for the Lord. (Believe me…I haven’t yet arrived – far from it!) I try to set me heart at the beginning of each day to love and not to resent. It is amazing the difference that this decision can make. It is a joy to walk in love or even to merely decide to be open to opportunities to love those who would not ordinarily love me. (I am even enjoying writing this essay!) When I walk in love, I feel empowered from above.
Lord help us! Only in you can we do these things.