Summary: Opposition actually helps us grow. Hostility is destructive not only of others, but also of one’s self; and it spreads without reason. Jesus named its absurdity and then left it in the hands of God. Montgomery Hills Baptist Church
Stress strengthens. That is a physical fact. It is also a spiritual truth. Stress strengthens. When we face opposition, we grow. When we deal with differences, we become stronger. Strange as it may sound, give thanks when you are opposed! For stress strengthens; enmity empowers; and hostility helps growth.
Some while ago my wife damaged a muscle coming down a ladder. Once she hurt that muscle, she started to baby it. She tried to rest herself into health. That’s what we normally do, isn’t it? Rest and recover. But guess what? If you rest a muscle too long, it gets weaker and weaker, and so when she went to a physical therapist, he said, “You’ve had things too easy! Your muscle has not had enough opposition!” That’s how muscles get stronger – with opposition, stress. And so her therapy now involves lifting five pound weights on each 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 grow.
But before we can 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, we have to see how unchecked enmity splatters all 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 now to dark Gethsemane with me, to that dramatic scene of the arrest of Jesus. You will discern demonic destruction. But, praise God, you will also discover divine determination.
First, what is the true nature of enmity? What can we learn about what hostility really is?
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 his own 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 in concrete. I’ve been using the word “hostility.” Hostility is opposition that goes beyond mere disagreement. Hostility, enmity, means the desire to destroy.
Sometimes, you see, personal feelings gets so deeply entrenched that they focus on only one thing, and that is the ultimate defeat of another person. Sometimes hostility becomes unreasoning and reckless and therefore ultimately self-destructive. Remember what happened with Judas shortly after the betrayal of Jesus? Judas destroyed not Jesus, but himself. He took his own life. When we get totally focused on destroying someone, that energy, will turn in on us and will eventually destroy us.