Love Your Enemies and Survive the Experience
Showing love to someone who opposes us and makes our lives miserable may seem to be impossible, but can be done with God’s help.
Jesus instructed us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, in spite of what they do to us (Matthew 5:44). The Bible also teaches us that we should do good to other people if we can. This is not easy - it is so tempting to strike back when they hurt us and take revenge.
David was the wonder boy of Israel (1 Samuel 18 - on). He was the only one who had the guts to face and kill the big mouth giant Goliath. God recognized David’s potential by designating him as the successor to the throne of Israel after King Saul. David quickly rose in the ranks of the army, and God’s favor helped him succeed in everything he did. The women of Israel sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:5-7).
King Saul, on the other hand, lost God’s favor through his own sinful behavior. He liked David at first. Saul enjoyed David’s soothing music and sent him on missions. Saul even gave David his daughter in marriage.
In time, though, David’s success grated on King Saul like nails on chalkboard. Israel’s new refrain and David’s acclaim stirred a frenzy of fear, jealousy, and a murderous rage inside Saul. Eventually, Saul tried to kill David through various means and David had to flee for his life.
Imagine how David must have felt. He was innocent of any wrongdoing toward his King. David was supposed to be the next king of Israel, and yet he was forced to live life on the run. David refused to take revenge on Saul, however, even when opportunities to kill Saul came up.
Enemies in Our Lives
Our enemies may not be attempting to kill us, but they may be trying to ruin our lives and reputations by gossip, malicious acts, and complaining. Like Saul, our enemies are often driven to act against us by powerful emotions, like jealousy and covetousness.
Reasons Why People Become Enemies
There are many reasons why people become our enemies such as:
- Our enemies believe that we have wronged them and hold a grudge
- Bosses can become enemies - they can become very controlling and are frustrated when we refuse to lie for them or do something unethical
- Co-workers resent it when we are promoted and subtly undermine us by complaining about us to superiors behind our backs or sabotaging our work
- Enemies may look down us for what they consider to be on our lack of intellect, poor background, or lower social standing
- Enemies may be driven by fear that they will lose something. Saul was terrified because David was more popular than he was and was probably worried that he would lose his position as the king
- Some people become enemies when they crave something we have, such as a job title or a good husband, and plot to obtain what we have
Pros and Cons of Confrontation
When we realize that someone is our enemy, our first instinct is to make them stop their destructive behavior. We may choose to confront them in the hope that things might change.
Sometimes our enemies will change if our words move them to repent, but other times, they just won’t listen.
David snuck into Saul’s camp and took some of Saul’s possessions to prove that he did not intend to harm Saul. David confronted Saul from a safe distance and presented Saul with the evidence that David could have killed him and chose not to do so.
Saul repented initially and then kept on persecuting David. In the same way, some enemies are set on destroying our reputations or our lives and will not stop persecuting us no matter what we do. In some cases, confrontation is not advisable and could be harmful. Confrontation may put us in physical danger of a beating or even death, such as a wife facing her physically abusive husband. In this case, professional help might be needed to help her deal with and leave the situation.
Leaning on God
When we try to deal with our enemies on our own power, we plunge into "deep waters." Sometimes we feel like we are drowning, barely breaking the surface to gasp for air until we get pushed down again. Our enemies are often too strong for us to handle. We need to ask God for help. He promises He will rescue us.
How to Treat our Enemies
Jesus encouraged us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). The apostle Paul says that we should do good to our enemies, feeding them when they are hungry and giving them drink when they are thirsty. When we do good to our enemies, it is like heaping coals of fires on their heads (Romans 12:20).
We also need to forgive our enemies for the harm they have done to us. Forgiveness heals us from the toxic hurt and anger that their actions stir in us.
What can we do to make our enemies leave us alone? Most of the time - not much. David put the situation in God's hands and did not take revenge on Saul.
David leaned on God to deal with his enemy and the other enemies that were in his life. He recognized that in himself, he did not have the strength to fight his enemies. God would deal with them Himself (Psalm 18:16 – 18).
Bible Verses on Revenge
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.
Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution, he will come to save you.”
Accountability and Revenge
Loving our enemies does not mean that we lie down and let them walk all over us. Our enemies should be accountable for what they do, especially if they are breaking the law. This accountability may involve a confrontation such as David's faceoff with Saul, a report to a supervisor, or reporting a crime to the police. However, if these actions could put us in danger of bodily harm or other damage, we may need seek professional counseling or legal advice. Accountability is ultimately about justice and not revenge.
David had many enemies and talks about them extensively in some of the Psalms. In spite of these hurtful people, he did not try to avenge himself. When David’s son Absalom attacked David’s armies to make himself the king of Israel, David ordered his men to make sure Absalom was safe (1Samuel 18).
When we treat our enemies well, we keep our minds free of negative thoughts, anger, and a desire for vengeance. David was able to have a close relationship with Saul’s son, Jonathan, and David was kind to Saul’s family.
Ultimately, we may be able to influence people, but we can't control them. We can only control how we react to them and pray for them.
If we rely on God, He will deliver us from drowning in deep waters of our enemies. Our enemies will also suffer the consequences of their sins against us. God answered David's prayers and delivered him from his enemies. David eventually became king of Israel. God will deliver us, too, if we ask Him.
References based on the Holy Bible, New International Version