“Enemy love” is one of the most difficult biblical truths to embrace. It is difficult to turn the other cheek and walk the second mile, especially when you’re being abused and misunderstood.
“Enemy love” has become particularly difficult in our hyper-political age where anyone on the ‘other side’ of an issue is our enemy. Polarization is not THE issue, demonization is. Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount that we are not to return evil for evil (Matthew. 5:38-42) and we are to love and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48).
The enemy within, James 4:1-3. What creates enemies? Sin. Enemies without are created from within due to sin that causes quarrels, fighting, murder, and wars.
Like the old saying goes, ‘We have met the enemy and it is us.’ Sin causes us to be self-centered. As a result, when we pray we pray selfishly, driven by fleshly passions and selfish motives.
This doesn’t mean that when we assert biblical truth we are wrong in doing so. Biblical truth can be offensive. Biblical truth can and does divide. But it must be biblical truth that causes divisions, NOT my attitude toward those to whom I preach and before whom I live out gospel truth. The lost are not our enemies, they are the mission field.
A hostile world, vv. 4-5. The enemy within us due to sin that makes enemies outside of us can be accelerated by friendship with a world that is hostile to God.
The world wants us to hate each other. This kind of friendship with the world puts us at odds with God. If we’re friends with the world we have become enemies of God. If we respond to others the way the world does then we have become enemies of God. The Spirit of God within us is jealous for our affections so that we might not make enemies out of others.
The Stand Against Satan, vv. 6-10. Satan, the father of all lies (John 8:44), is the one who stirs up the already present sinful temptation within us to make enemies.
Again, truth is divisive and offensive in and of itself. To tell a man he is a sinner offends the self-righteous. But while preaching and living the truth we cannot take the next step and make ourselves offensive or divisive. The world will label us as divisive, as enemies. Yet, we are to make sure that we’re not the offense, but the gospel is.
We are to remember that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (4:6).
By God’s grace we can submit to God, resist Satan (v. 7), draw near to God, cleansing and purifying our hearts along the way (v. 8). As we weep over our own sin (v. 9) God enables us to avoid hating our enemies.
Even when the enemies of God put us down, if we will humble ourselves before the Lord He will exalt us in due season (v. 10).
Retaliation is the natural response to unfair treatment. All people feel it, even believers. However, God has given us every resource we need to speak the truth in love even while we are being maligned.
When we are persecuted for the right things we must trust God to take care of the outcomes. Let God judge. His wrath and judgment will be pure and true. Our game plan must be I Peter 4:19, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” B&R