April 23 – Sermon on the Mount – Engaging With Enemies

Read Matthew 5:38-48

What is an enemy?

According to the dictionary, an “enemy” is someone who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.  All of us, from time to time, have people who disagree with, or are hostile toward, us.

Jesus was no stranger to hostile people. Even as a newborn baby, He had an enemy in King Herod who ordered babies around Jesus’ age to be murdered.  In the desert, He came face to face with the devil himself. All throughout His ministry, the leaders of the temple questioned everything He said and did. All along, they were plotting against Him.

Yet, He tells us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us! 

That person who is always arguing with me? The person who can’t wait to find fault in everything I do or say?

Obviously, He sees something in our adversaries that we might not see. Jesus died for ALL of us, not just the people we get along with. In fact, one of the two main commandments that Jesus felt was the most important was to love your neighbor as yourself.

But how do we do that? Let’s look at how He handled it. 

Before He met with the devil in the desert, He equipped Himself with the word of God.  He didn’t argue with His foe. Instead, He boldly replied with Scripture! Do you have a supply of Scripture verses you can count on as a reply?

Jesus didn’t hide from or avoid His enemies.  He was right in the middle of them, listening and even questioning their thinking. In order for us to love our enemies, we need to spend time finding out what makes them tick. Ask God to open your eyes to your enemy’s view point. Spend more time listening than telling or talking. When you do speak, be sure you are speaking the truth with kindness. Sometimes strife comes from something so small you might not have even noticed.  Could it be jealousy, fear of losing their position in life, prestige or possibly just a misunderstanding?  Confront with boldness but also humility.  Be ready to forgive or to ask for forgiveness, if you find you were the one who was wrong.

Jesus also calls for us to even pray for our enemies.

Even on the cross after His enemies had had Him beaten and nailed to the cross, He took pity on them, prayed for them for He said “they didn’t know what they were doing.”  If He can forgive the people who killed Him, who are we that we can’t do the same with the people who are causing us trouble?

Love your neighbors, ALL OF THEM, as yourself and pray for those who persecute you!

What “enemy” of yours do you need to pray for? How can you interact with them in a God-honoring way?

Pat Arnold

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