Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Hostility comes from the obsessed, self-absorbed heart, and often offers permission for random acts of violence. Jesus got real with His enemies by naming their madness but trusting His own defense to God.

Stress strengthens. That is a physical fact. It is also a

spiritual truth. Stress strengthens us. When we face

opposition, we grow. When we deal with differences, we

become stronger than we were. Strange as it may seem,

and unpleasant though it may feel, give thanks when you are

opposed! Stress strengthens; enmity empowers; and

hostility helps growth.

My wife is going through a series of physical therapy

treatments. Some while ago she damaged a muscle coming

down a ladder the wrong way. Once she hurt that muscle,

she started to baby it. She tried to rest herself into health.

That’s what we normally tell people, isn’t it? Rest and

recover. But guess what? If you rest a muscle too long, it

gets weaker and weaker, and now she’s taking physical

therapy because, according to her therapist, she’s had things

too easy! Her muscle has not had enough opposition!

That’s how muscles get stronger – with stress. And so her

therapy now involves lifting five pound weights on her leg.

Stress strengthens. Opposition builds us up. That is a

physical fact. And it is also a spiritual truth – stress

strengthens, enmity empowers, and hostility helps us to


But for us to use that truth, we have to learn several things.

First, we have to learn the true nature of hostility – what

really is going on when you face an enemy. And, second, we

have to learn how hostility spreads, how unchecked enmity

splatters all over everyone else around. And, finally, we

have to learn how to respond when we are the objects of

hostility – what to do when we are attacked. All this we can

learn best from Jesus. From this most authentic self who

ever lived – how did He respond when He was attacked? If

we can learn what hostility really is and can discover how it

spreads, we can find out from Jesus how to deal with it. And

we can be greatly strengthened. Because, again, stress

strengthens, enmity empowers, and hostility helps us grow.

Go to dark Gethsemane with me, to that dramatic scene of

the arrest of Jesus. Go with me and watch. You will discern

demonic dynamics dedicated to destruction. But, praise

God, you will also discover divine defusing of devilish



First, the true nature of enmity. Judas. His very name is

synonymous with betrayal. Judas Iscariot, who had walked

the lanes of Galilee with Jesus, and had watched Jesus heal.

Judas, who had sat at the Master’s feet and had listened to

words about loving enemies. Judas, for whatever reasons, is

now bent on destruction. He has one and only one purpose

in his heart this night in Gethsemane, and that is to destroy

Jesus. He will lead the Temple guards to Jesus’ place of

prayer, and he will identify the victim so that there will be no

mistake. Judas on this night has become an example of

focused hatred: determined, implacable, set. Hostility is

opposition that goes beyond mere disagreement. Hostility,

enmity, means the desire to destroy.

Let us make no mistake. As much as we might not like to

admit it, sometimes personal enmity gets so deeply

entrenched that it is focused on only one thing, and that is

the destruction of another person. Sometimes hostility

becomes unreasoning and reckless, even self-destructive.

Remember what happened with Judas shortly after the

betrayal of Jesus? Judas destroyed himself. He took his

own life. When we get totally focused on destroying

someone, that focus, that energy, will turn in on us and will

eventually destroy us. Beware if you find yourself obsessing

on punishing somebody. You are headed in a direction that

will only be self-destructive.

Now I am confident I am not speaking to people who have

murder on their hearts. That would be the last thing I would

expect from anyone in this congregation. And yet I am also

confident that some of us could easily turn into dedicated

enemies. We are going to do someone in if we can. Maybe

we intend to remove someone from his job. Or we are going

to smear someone’s character. Or we are going to tarnish

someone’s reputation. We are going to beat someone down.

Maybe it’s as simple as we have decided we are going to win

a certain argument. We are going to have our own way in

some decision. We are going to defeat somebody, and, like

Judas, we are going to do it in the sweetest way. Kiss, hug,

and smile, saccharine sweetness, but we are going to win! I

learned a long time ago that when some folks smile sweetly

at you and say, “Well, bless your heart”, they really mean,

“Curse your bones”! Look out for the sickly sweet ones!

I know of churches where that is happening. I know of

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