Summary: When true believers get distressed by attacks upon Christianity, rising above anger felt toward enemies who seek to destroy adherence to Christian principles is hard but doable if mature Christians practice a special kind of love.
OF CONCERN TO OUR LORD AND MATURE CHRISTIANS IS THE REDEMPTION OF ENEMIES
Complicated are many issues in life, not the least of which is dealing with enemies - whether internationally, nationally, locally or personally! The best way to address the subject is objectively and honestly.
Like it or not, there are people we do not like – the obnoxious . . . the profane . . . lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God . . . molesters . . . abusers . . . drunks . . . terrorists . . . illicit drug dealers . . . murderers . . . rapists . . . corrupt politicians . . . false prophets . . . hypocrites.
Like it or not, while most of us tend to think of our “enemies” as those who live far away and belong to some cult or false religion that preaches and practices killing Christians and Jews, there are enemies of the Lord our God and enemies of His people right here - in America.
Like it or not, those we do not like – whether at home or abroad- are people for whom Christ died . . . are people we are taught by our Lord to love - not only those enemies already mentioned, along with others that might come to mind, but also ourselves - as we once were, or, might have been - before we met Christ – in the sense that Paul described his former self:
In Paul’s sermon on Justification by Faith (Romans 5) Paul states a profound truth: “Death through Adam, Life Through Christ”. He explains: “Whereas, by one man – Adam - sin entered the world, by one man - Christ Jesus - salvation unto eternal life became possible”. In Adam, we all die. In Christ, all who believe are made alive!
To prove his point (5:10) Paul referenced his life before he met Jesus . . . before he surrendered his all to Christ – then - Paul applied his experience of regeneration to all “sinners saved by grace”, saying, “We were God’s enemies”.
Paul clarified what he meant: “By one act of enmity against God (the sin of Adam) the many (Paul and all others) were made sinners.” And in his letter to the Colossians (1:21) Paul concluded his thesis, saying, “You, therefore, were alienated from God and enemies in your mind . . . by nature -- often expressed by bad behavior.”
James the brother of our Lord expounded on Paul’s thesis with a warning (4:4): “If you choose to be a ‘cozy, go-along-to-get-along, adopt-their-foolish-ways’ friend with any of these ungodly types of worldly thinking, you become an enemy of God.”
Of concern to our Lord and mature believers is the redemption of enemies (even ourselves when we become our own worst enemy, or, we feel that someone is out to get us - only to discover that our enemy ‘r us!)
Thus, we have Paul’s warning to the Philippians - and to us: “As I have often told you and now say again, even with tears, many (among us) live as enemies of the cross of Christ . . .Their destiny is destruction . . . Their god is their own selfish desires . . . Their glory is in their shame . . . Their mind is on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18)
Because of our deep devotion to Christ and His Church, we at times feel the indignation displayed by Jesus when He overturned the moneychangers tables set up in the Temple court yards to do their dirty work of cheating and swindling, making a mockery of that which is sacred.
There may be times when our anger needs to be expressed publicly as long as it is directed toward perpetrators of crime and corruption - in ways that rebuke but do not falsely accuse or spill innocent blood.
Once he dramatically got the attention of Temple hypocrites, Jesus rebuked their practices, but soon thereafter resumed His redemptive mission of seeking to save the lost and turn negatives into positives.
At the level where most of us interact - families, communities, local church and civic functions, we encounter enemies of a different type than those atheists, antisemitic and antichristian elements in our larger society who actively strive to do harm to if not do away with Judeo-Christian ethics, morals and values. However . . .
Regardless of the level at which we as individuals, or as an organized body of believers, encounter enemies, Jesus taught what it means to be His disciple in such situations – by rendering yet another hard saying – Luke 6:27-36 . . .
Two women got into a vicious quarrel outside the sanctuary right after a bitter dispute at a church business conference. Someone described it as a “cat fight” – a term which made no sense to me until this limerick came across my desk: “There once were two cats from Kilkenny. Each thought there was one cat too many. They fought and they spit, they clawed and they bit, till instead of two cats there weren’t any.”