Summary: Our greatest enemies are the traits within us that cause us to sin. We see those traits in others, can’t control others, and can find healing only in Christ.
The Reverend Anne Benefield
Geneva Presbyterian Church, March 1, 2009
Introduction: Today’s scripture lesson is one of David’s psalms. In it he pleads for help from God against his enemies. Listen to how he describes the forces against him.
To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul,
O God, in You I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for You be put to
let them be ashamed who are wantonly
Make me to know Your ways, O Lord;
teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth, and teach me,
for You are the God of my salvation;
for You I wait all day long.
Be mindful of Your mercy, O Lord, and of
Your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or
according to Your steadfast love
for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
Prayer: O Lord, for Your goodness’ sake, may we come to know how to face our enemies both without and within us. Amen.
I prefer to think about enemies far away. It’s much easier to deal with hating people who are overseas and strangers, but it’s not the far away person who causes us most problems. It’s the person we know and “hate” that makes us miserable. It’s often the person working at the next desk or in the next office that gets to us.
Several workplace-related studies in 2008 suggest that the majority of working Americans aren’t all that fond of whom they work with.
• When asked if a colleague has ever tried to make them look bad, 50 percent of respondents said yes; 48 percent said no; 2 percent said they didn’t know.
• When asked to identify which causes more stress at work—co-workers or workload—51 percent of respondents said co-workers, while 49 percent said workload.
• When asked if they work with one or more annoying co-workers, 86 percent of respondents said yes, while 13 percent said no. (Numbers do not add up to 100 due to rounding by researches.)
[Brian Lowery, managing editor, PreachingToday.com; sources: Jae Yang and Adrienne Lewis, “USA Today Snapshots: Friend or Foe?” USA Today; Michelle Healy and Sam Ward, “USA Today Snapshots: Workplace Worries,” USA Today: Jae Yang and Adrienne Lewis, “USA Today Snapshots: Do you work with one or more annoying co-workers?” USA Today.
Here’s an interesting thing: What often irritates us in someone else is what we do ourselves.
You know that I am very close to my younger sister Jean, who is also a pastor. Years ago, I noticed that when we were on the phone, she would sometimes “checkout” of the conversation. I would know immediately when this happened. Because it upset me, I talked to my husband, John, who very gently told me that I do the same thing. He said once that happened it was no use saying something important. I was gone, even though I was still at the other end of the line—I just wasn’t listening any more. Imagine how embarrassed I was! I’ve tried so hard not to do it, but I know that there are times when I do. And I hate it that I do that!
So as we talk about enemies, people we “hate,” take an inventory of what gets on your nerves, and then take another inventory. Take an honest inventory of yourself. If you are anything like me, you will discover there is a connection on at least one trait.
In your bulletin, I have inserted a little sheet. On the left margin, you will see the title “Enemy Traits;” on the right side you will see the words “Prayers needed.” I’d invite you list either the name of the person you dislike or the traits you dislike. Then later today, I’d invite you to pray for that person and/or their traits. Now, please don’t pray that they change. You and I are the ones who have the trouble with them. Pray for good for them. And pray to understand them because as you come to understand them, you will come to understand yourself better.
There is no more powerful example of hating someone for what we are guilty of doing ourselves than the story of David and Bathsheba. David sees Bathsheba and decides he must have her. She is a married woman, the wife of Uriah. David has many wives. To cover his sinful relationship with Bathsheba, he sends Uriah into a trap to die in battle.
Sometime later, Nathan comes to tell David the story of a poor farmer who owns only one lamb while his wealthy neighbor owns a large herd, but when a visitor comes to the wealthy man, he steals the lamb of his poor neighbor and serves it to his guest.