Loving Our Enemies (Jan-Feb 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

By Nancy Dobson
January-February 2002

“Do not fear those who kill the body,” Jesus said. Rather fear God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28) After he was nailed to the cross, Jesus asked God to forgive his enemies, and he forgave them, too, though he knew, as he did about Judas (Matthew 26:24), that they would suffer the repercussions of their acts.

Jesus said we should love our enemies Luke 6:27-35). But why should we love those who kill us and destroy everything we have spent our lives working to create? Wouldn’t we be condoning their destructiveness and undermining civilized society? Love the person but not the deed, some say. But even that can be difficult when we are dying and wondering what it is all for.

When Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile and give to anyone who asks of us, he may have been referring to enemies who have absolute control over us, such as robbers or evil government officials. Israel was occupied by the Romans at that time. In those cases, harsher treatment might be given to those who resist. Elsewhere, Jesus confronted those who erred, criticized them and advocated a tougher response to them. (Matthew18:15-17, 7:6, 21:12-13, 21:33-46, 23:13-32; Luke 11:37-46, 16:10-15)

Our enemies provide a certain service to us by pointing out our weaknesses. They are like the grit that enters an oyster. Depending on how we respond to the grit, we could create something beautiful from the experience.

The Bible is our instruction book. It tells us, in various ways, how we can respond to the challenges of life to strengthen weaknesses in ourselves and our society. We should respond to our enemies, then, by holding them accountable where possible and strengthening the personal and social weaknesses their behavior reveals.

Another important function of enemies is to drive us to prayer and to seek answers from God. Seeking more fervently and earnestly then we otherwise might, we can develop a relationship with God that will help us avoid or better respond to more intense experiences in the future. When God allows us to be pruned (John 15:1-2), or disciplines us (Proverbs 3:11-12, 17:3), it is for the purpose of helping us grow spiritually.

The purpose of our life on earth is to overcome the world in ourselves (John16:33) and develop a healthy and strong spirit to be reborn into the eternal spiritual realm when our service to God on the material side of life is complete. Responding to our enemies with honesty, justice and compassion and developing a stronger relationship with, love for and obedience to our Creator prepares and proves us so we are ready for that glorious homecoming. (John 15:18-19, 12:25; Revelation 22:14-15) That really is something to love about enemies, after all.

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About...

This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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