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.
Beware if you find yourself obsessing on punishing somebody. You are headed in a direction that will only be self-destructive.
Have you ever felt total hostility rising in your heart? You decided you were going to remove someone from his job. You determined that you would spread whispers to smear someone’s character. You got into a struggle in that committee meeting, you took on an argument in that neighborhood association, you nursed a grudge within your family; and the only thing that was important was that you win, and in winning crush your opponent. Have you ever felt that intense hostility?
Oh, some of us are really good at this; like Judas, we do it in the sweetest way. Kiss, hug, and smile, saccharine sweetness! I learned a long time ago that when folks smile 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 this has happened. I know of homes where ths is going on. I know of interpersonal relationships where out-and-out enmity is ever-present. Judas wants to win at all costs, even if it means damaging somebody deeply. Obsessed, compulsive, totally focused on hostility. If you’ve felt that in your heart, be warned! Be alert! For it is nothing but Satan himself at work. And when you have determined to become somebody’s enemy, that will destroy not only the object of your feelings; it will destroy you. Hostility is more dangerous to the hater than it is to the hated. It is more destructive to the schemer than it is to the victim. What is enmity? Not just hating others; it is self-hatred.