Mature Class Study, teacher Alyce Crain.
Who is our enemy? An enemy is one who threatens, harms, opposes, criticizes, or is passively unpleasant to us. It can be a stranger, coworker, family, friend, or even someone from church. An enemy is not always who we perceive them to be.
Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
We need to ask ourselves, is the opposition is real or perceived? Sometimes we may perceive those who are for us as being against us and we feel they are attacking us as enemies in certain situations. God actually opposed Balaam because he was doing something wrong. His donkey was trying to save his life but Balaam was ready to kill him.
Numbers 22:21-33 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him… And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn…and the ass turned aside out of the way…and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the Lord stood in a path…And when the ass saw the angel…she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again. And the angel of the Lord…stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn…And when the ass saw the angel…she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done…that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said…Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. And the ass said …Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden…? was I ever wont to do so…? And he said, Nay. Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel…standing in the way, and his sword drawn …and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. And the angel of the Lord said…Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse…the ass saw…unless she had turned…I had slain thee, and saved her alive.
No matter how unpleasant it seems when friends say you’re acting wrong, they want the best for you. It’s not an attack. We may be offended or hurt when there was no offense or ill intent. Someone may rub us the wrong way and trigger something that happened in the past. We need to ask the Lord to help us turn off the tape in our mind from our past.
What’s our enemies’ motive? Sometimes people don’t realize what they’re doing. The soldiers at the foot of the cross were pressured to obey orders. If they disobeyed, they could die. They said Jesus was the son of God after he died.
Luke 23:34…said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Matthew 27:54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
Sometimes people don’t intend or try to hurt us but are doing things to avoid being hurt. Pilate interrogated Jesus and found no wrong in him, but the Pharisees tried to make it seem like Pilate was conspiring against Caesar. Pilate gave into the mob because he was afraid of the punishment of death for conspiracy. The blind man’s parents feared the Jews and to be banished from among the Jews so they didn’t confess Jesus (John 9:22). Sometimes people act hostile for different reasons entirely than what it seems. Jesus considered these situations, forgave, and said they didn’t know what they did.
Luke 23:1-4 And the whole multitude…led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked…Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered…Thou sayest it. Then said Pilate…I find no fault in this man.
How did I contribute to the situation? Did I contribute by causing discouragement or contention, being uncooperative, or cold and offensive? Many times we put healing balm on the discord if we “first cast out the beam” in our own eye.
Matthew 7:3-5 And why beholdest thou the mote…in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam…in thine…? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine…? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own…then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Our enemies may not be enemies at all. They may be friends who are trying to help us, or someone that doesn’t mean to hurt us but has something else in mind. They may be someone reacting to our offense to them. After our initial reaction, God wants us to handle threats according to his will. He wants to get glory by showing he’s with us in every situation. He doesn’t want us to handle things by our feelings or instincts of the automatic, human response when we perceive a threat:
Fight – act to eliminate the danger
Flight – remove yourself from threat
Freeze – do nothing
Fawn – appease the enemy to lessen the threat
Flop – faint, become numb to the trauma, or shut down to lessen the affect
So how do I love my enemies? We handle situations with his love, doing good, lending, being kind and merciful to not judge (let God judge), and especially to forgive. If we hold onto ill will, it adds to our negativity and eats us up spiritually.
Luke 6:35-38 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend…and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you…For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
The love of God is based on a heart of redemption or salvation for our enemy, not our feelings.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The recipe for overcoming threats with an enemy is to be meek – gentle, mild, humble, the necessary balance of exercising power and avoiding harshness. We have swords and know how to use them, but keep them sheathed to show God’s love.
Romans 12:14-21 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for…thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
What do we do with our natural anger that we feel at times? God doesn’t want us to act on our feeling but to let them go. The devil will try to get you to keep anger, bitterness, grudges, and resentment in your heart. Don’t let him!
Ephesians 4:26-27 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.
God wants us to answer with love: gentle, thoughtful, caring, empathetic, and respectful. That isn’t grievous words that are harsh, painful, or sarcastic. A soft answer will help diffuse the anger and tension of a situation.
Proverbs 15:1-2 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
How do we handle being accused of doing wrong when we haven’t? We must be willing to be wrong, even if we’re right. Defending ourselves may make things worse. We have to give situations to God to handle. He’s in control and wants to get glory out of the situation. We’re human and may even have situations with the saints. The devil is working to cause misunderstandings among us. We need to stand together in unity and resist the devil.
I Peter 2:19-23 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
When the enemy comes to attack us, look beyond the anger and into the precious soul.
I Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant…your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing…same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren …in the world.