Loving one’s enemy

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WHAT TO DESIRE FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE ACTED BADLY

Now, a common occurrence among?Christians is to offer well meaning euphemisms to those who have?suffered harm from other people. ?Forgive them,? and ?Wish them well,??are a few examples of the quickly spent diplomacies. After all Jesus?gave his sermon on the mount ? to be found in Matthew chapters 5-7, and?in Luke chapter 6 ? the summation of which can be paraphrased as: love?your neighbor, even if he is your enemy, do good to them when they do?poorly to you, pray for them, if they steal from you don?t require it?back, and if they slap your face give them your other cheek. Further,?the Apostle Paul rendered his commentary of the Sermon on the Mount in?Romans 12 where he taught that we should forgive those that persecute us?? bless them, give them to drink, and feed them.

Unfortunately, the trend in the American?church is to glibly offer shallow advice to those who are persecuted or?treated unfairly. Well meaning Christians flood the unfortunate brother?or sister with advice like: ?shower the enemies of your soul and of the?church, not only with kindness, but gifts of mammon, and as well, feed?and comfort them.? Additionally, some trouble is embarrassing and?emotionally problematic. The result follows that other Christians refuse?to understand the complex situation. If comforters interfere without?proper understanding, they skew what Christ has intended. The supposed?comforters have required their suffering brother or sister to do that?they could not accomplish themselves ? and they have done the sinner?harm, allowing him to believe he or she can circumvent righteousness and?do as he or she pleases ? without ever giving account, or repenting.

Are you confused or resistive? Let me?ask a simple question. How did Jesus respond to the Pharisees, Caiaphas,?Judas, Herod, and Pilot? Give it some thought, and let it settle in.?Did Jesus bless them by conveying safe passage in life, or wish them?well in their endeavors, or embrace them as potentially profitable, but?misguided brothers? We know that Jesus prayed for them, and asked his?Father to forgive them. In essence he didn?t seek his own retaliation.?He sought the Father?s intent of the hope that his detractors would?repent ? but he always said what he knew concerning their behavior, and?he was at times, terse. [Matthew 23].

Jesus never taught his disciples to?reward bad behavior, but he gave three basic Christian responses toward?those that do evil: (1) love your enemies by doing good to them; (2)?pray for your persecutors and do not openly resist them by force ; (3)?do not toss your peals to pigs [Mt.5:28-48; Mt7:6; Lk.6:27-36]. For?example: if a man steals your car would you let him keep it just to?prove you are forgiving. If you did, you would teach the thief to?continue stealing, because theft apparently has become a rewarding?career. If we offer no spiritual or moral resistance, evil simply takes?advantage and is allowed to grow.

When Jesus gave the Sermon on the mount,?it was affected to correct improper teaching that surrounded some of?the Levitical moral law ? in specific, Leviticus chapter 19. The form of?oratory Jesus used was superlative and exaggerated so that he could get?to the heart of the matter, which was: he wanted his hearers to?understand what it meant to, ?love mercy? [Mic.6:8]. The Pharisees had?over time, removed parts of the Levitical moral code and added their own?interpretation to suit their desires. In many cases the Pharisees?negated the entire intent of Yehovah?s moral code. This is why Jesus?starts his sermon with, ?You have heard it said?? Correction was needed?and Jesus and as well John the Baptist did not shrink from convicting?language.

Every person alive has some?understanding of what is just, and most have enough temperance to grant?some measure of mercy ? but how many of us love mercy?

The Levitical moral codes were given to?the official judges within the camp. The expressions of, ?eye for eye?and tooth for tooth,? were for the judges ? not for the common person.?Retaliation belonged to the Divine and for those who sat in his place to?govern or judge.?Doing good, to the miscreants of evil, equilibrates to praying for their?repentance. Secondly, if the opportunity comes, we are to provide them?with the reality of God?s goodness by gentle conduct or artful rebuke ??demonstrating by activity, or by voice, the desires or demands of God?[Jude 22-23]. The end result may be costly to the Christian, but will?evince righteousness and provide opportunity for the evil person to?repent.

Note that Paul, in his summary of proper?Christian behavior, found in Romans 12:9-21, quotes from Prov.25:21-22 ??that is to feed and give drink, and by extension, clothe one?s enemy.?However, it is prefaced by: ?IF he is hungry! IF he is thirsty!? We are?not told to suddenly ask an evil man to dinner after he has beaten us,?or held us as gun point. Obviously, accommodating this poor behavior?would be impractical and silly. In addition, a Christian is not required?to thank a man that just committed adultery with his wife, or who?entered his bank account fraudulently.

Life has a way of turning the tide and?those who make evil demands on others may become destitute, or in?serious need. It is then that we offer our enemy the mammon, in an?effort to manifest God and demonstrate his love. We should always?remember that the good Jesus ultimately did for us was to die for our?sins [Rm.11:27]. We can offer no better to a sinner than our prayers,?and by setting aside our wants of retaliation, for the end potential of?our adversary repenting.

A modern example can be given??A Christian man is divorced by his wife, for no appropriate reason. She?carries on in adultery and yet he pleads with her to come back and prays?that she might repent. In the end, she remains hardened and marries her?adulterous partner.?One day this Christian is asked by other church members how he is?getting along. He relates that he is still distraught. They in turn?respond that he should let the whole thing go, to which he states that?he does not wish the adulterous couple a happy marriage nor prosperity,?but prays that their life will be unprofitable, so much so that they?would learn from their behavior and repent.?The other Christians are shocked and respond that he should wish the adulterous pair well!

The question here is: should the jilted?husband ask the Father to bless their marriage with fruitful bliss and?shower them with prosperity? Of course not! To ask that would be?reprobate. It would constitute casting our peals before pigs. God has?said he hates divorce [Mal.2:16]. Should we not also? Can a couple?prosper from their continue acts of adultery. Simply because the world?says they are legally married does not cover the sin over. A bill of?divorce, under this guise, is worthless in the eyes of God [Mt.5:31-32].?The husband presented his true feelings, which God thoroughly agrees?with. He ought to be sad, indignant, and honestly angry. However, the?Bible states, ?In your anger do not sin? [Eph.4:26; Ps.4:4]. This text?is stating two things: (1) anger is natural and expected under certain?situations; (2) One should not indulge in the sport of creative?retribution, while lying idle upon one?s bed. There is a difference?between righteous indignation and nursing a grudge.

Similarly, in prayerfully requesting the?harsh, but necessary, discipline of God [1Cor.5:4-5] upon an?apostatizing brother or sister, it should be regarded an act of?kindness. It is better to enter heaven crippled, than to enter hell with?one?s parts intact [Mt.5:27-30]. E.K. Simpson [Trinity College, Oxford]?writes in his commentary on Ephesians:

?A man totally destitute of?indignation is a maimed sample of humanity?An honest love is not afraid?to frown. Cantankerous ebullitions of passion on the other hand are?criminal lapses from self control. ? [NICNT ? pgs 108-109, ISBN?0-8028-2193-6]

Further concerning our attitude towards?an act of evil, or the evil doer(s), N. Geldenhuys [Princeton?Theological Seminary and Cambridge University] adds to this subject:

?Naturally the Lord does not enjoin a weak and sentimental attitude?toward evildoers. He teaches that hatred should never be repaid with?hatred, but with true unselfish love?Therefore, firm action may and?should be taken against those who do evil, whenever this is necessary?for the sake of the honor of God and the highest well being of the?sinning ones?all this should be viewed in the Light of the general?principal that there should be a constant endeavour, in a spirit of?sincere love, to bring the guilty to repentance and to conquer evil by?good.? [NICT, Gospel of Luke ? pg. 212, ISBN 08028-2184-7]

In summation there is a remarkable?difference between retribution, and a call for action that will bring?about repentance. God?s patience is not without end and so it should be?that neither is the patience of a fellow Christian. In modern?Christianity this subtle understanding has been usurped by skewed?civility and indulgence toward unchecked sin. Shunning of sin and its?propagators, is not ?politically correct? in the mainstream American?Church, and it causes great harm ? for in ?looking-the-other-way? the?church strips itself of the God given power to work with the Holy Spirit?from convicting the world of sin. In our fear of retaliation we can?neuter the Holy Spirit and set a precedent that everything is acceptable?? thus teaching the worldly that no affront is too large ? no blasphemy?or mocking is too egregious when maligning the grace of God. Yet we?know that Jesus, in many cases, walked away from a crowd or made his?words cryptic, and as well, he out right rebuked many, when they showed?no concern for his pearls of wisdom ? and so should we, when what we?accept as holy from God, is trampled underfoot.

There should be an immediate attitude of?temperance and prayerful encouragement, toward the offended brother or?sister, rather than a wholesale and glib acceptance of immorality. As in?anything which is at odds with the world, it cost the true disciple?dearly. We should not shrink from our duty to do good ? measured by the?commands of Christ ? first to the Church, and then to the world.

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