How often have you heard or received these advice about dealing with your enemy? “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer” or “make sure you give as much as you get” or always render “an eye for an eye”. I have been guilty of rendering an eye for an eye.
In the past that was my silent creed at times. I never kept my enemies close. I would be sure to let you know that I do not like you. If there was on-going conflict between us I would retaliate in kind immediately or seek revenge at a later time. Especially, when it was least expected. You see I lived by a few creeds that were conflicting.
I was thought to do good to people but I lived by this adage “revenge is a dish best served cold”. I reveled in it at times. My moves against an enemy would be defensive. If you wronged me, I would seek opportunities for revenge at times when it was least expected. I did not hide how I felt. You would know I was offended but I would become very silent for a prolonged period. During this period, an assessment would be done and I would wait for the opportunity to give payback without you being able to retaliate. I was not afraid of anyone. I simply wanted to send a clear signal that I must not be trifled with.
My actions were based on what I learnt from the world around me. Strategies on how to effectively decimate my enemies were sought from books, television, wealth magazines, successful business leaders, motivation coaches, and other leaders. Advises they gave ranged from using intimidatory tactics to frightening the enemy by signalling your superiority; keeping the enemy closer than a friend and using them until your desires are met; using blackmail against the enemy; bringing the battle to the enemy before he/she even starts; ensuring that you give as much pain and suffering as you get from the enemy. These are but a few of the advice that influenced my actions until I learnt there is another way.
A way that seems foolish. It does not give the temporary satisfaction from revenge. It gives something better, that is far more fulfilling. It gives you absolute peace and sustained joy. Let’s examine this way.
If we are to examine the Word of God for advice about how we must handle our enemy we would find many battles scenes outlined and retaliatory actions in the Old Testament. While it is tempting to study these and apply them we must understand that these were necessary for the establishment of a nation. God permitted the battles to ensure the children of Israel inherited the land He promised Abraham. It’s ultimate aim was to allow them to dwell in peace from their enemies.
In executing this command there are several approaches that we must take. These include but are by no means limited to the following:
- Quickly forgive your enemy (1 Thessalonians 5:15; Galatians 6:10; Colossians 3:13);
- Do not use your enemy;
- Keep no record of the wrong (Proverbs 19:11; 1 Corinthians 13:5);
- Do not render harm for harm. We are commanded to bear even another injury, and not retaliate (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29);
- Do not rejoice when your enemy falls (Proverbs 24:17-18; Obadiah 1:12);
- Pray that God will change the heart of the person. We must not pray against them (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28; Romans 12:24);
- Show kindness to our enemy. If our enemy is thirsty we must give him/her water to drink. If our enemy is hungry we must feed the person (Proverbs 25:21; Romans 12:20)
- Be very wise when dealing with the enemy without seeking to do any harm (Matthew 10:16-20);
- If necessary, run from the enemy to another location, if the person persistently prosecutes you (Matthew 10:21-23).
If we realise that someone close to us is an enemy, are we allowed to use that person? I have heard from saints that using the person is justified. The evidence that was furnished is that Jesus kept Judas close simply to use him. They posit that Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him so he had him around so that He, Jesus, could fulfill the will of the Father. This is a misunderstanding. Jesus kept him close, genuinely treated him as a friend and taught him to transform his life. Judas was a thief. He cared more for the money than others but the teaching he got had the desired effect. After he betrayed Jesus he repented. (John 13:2,11,18,21-27; Matthew 26:14-16, 48-51).
I have looked at the actions that must be taken towards an enemy. But if we are to be effective in our actions we must know who is our enemy. An enemy is someone who seeks to harm, malign or destroy you. While this is a perfectly acceptable definition we must not stop there with our examination. There is need to go below the surface to truly understand who is our enemy.
Our battle is not against an individual. The real fight is against beings that are spiritual – Satan and his minions. We fight to ensure that he does not have a right to our soul.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
To effectively wage war we must do the will of Jesus concerning our enemy. Understand what is being fought for. The aim of the enemy is to get you to permanently give up your position in the kingdom of God. Through a series of well coordinated attacks, it is hoped that you will retaliate in like manner and sin against God.
10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
If you allow yourself to react negatively to a situation you are making yourself vulnerable. The emotions must be controlled.
32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)
When we operate in love it creates an atmosphere in which the enemy cannot operate. He is powerless to confront us. I have seen hostile situations turn around because of this approach.
We cannot successfully operate in love towards our enemy through self-reliance or self-empowerment techniques. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to do the will of God. Prayer, meditating on the Word of God and listening to our point guard (the Holy Ghost) for guidance are our surety for maintaining our position in the Kingdom of God.
Is God inactive towards our enemy
The Lord knows who is our real enemy. He will tell you how to act but he will also take action(s) against the enemy. He will act in His time and his will.
22 Do not say, “I will recompense evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you. (Proverbs 20:22)
19 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 12:19)
We, the citizens of the Kingdom of God, must petition the King to reveal what is happening and to act on our behalf. An example of this principle, was effectively shown by Elisha when a troop from the army of Syria came to kill him. They surrounded the city, he lived in, and demanded that he come out. His servant panicked but he knew he was accompanied by an innumerable army of the hosts of heaven, so he petitioned God to act on his behalf. God responded to his request and rendered the Syrian army blind. What is noteworthy is how he treated them after. They were lead into captivity but instead of killing them a feast was prepared for them, then they were released. That act of kindness gave Israel rest from further attacks from Syria (2 Kings 6:8-23). God can and will do the same for you. If you petition Him to act on your behalf. But do not forget that He will not allow you to gloat or take revenge against your enemies, after He’s acted on your behalf.
There are some conflicts that the Lord will allow. The conflict may even result in our death. We are expected to be willing to lay down our life for the sake of the cross. Jesus laid down His life for us and the same is expected of us, his followers. We are not above our Master. It is acceptable that we may be equal as Him in our operation, but never above.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5: 10 – 12)
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! (Matthew 10: 24-25)
Walking in Triumph
Let us walk in love at all times. When we express the love of God towards our enemy we overcome evil with good. It causes the atmosphere around us to shift. It frustrates the enemy and allows us to remain in a place where we can hear the Lord giving us divine strategies that will allow us to be triumphant.