|Volume 22 Number 10 October 2020||
D. Gene West
Have you ever heard of some trouble or hard times falling on one’s foe, then felt a sense of glee and responded with, “He got what he deserves”? It is a safe assumption that all who have been hurt by another have done so. Rejoicing over hardship that comes on an offending person is, unfortunately, a part of our “human nature.” As a matter of fact, it is so much a part of human nature that even those striving to live righteous lives will engage in such, never realizing the seriousness of it. We fail to grasp that such rejoicing is the same emotion one feels when he is finally able to take forbidden vengeance on an old enemy (Romans 12:19-20). Revenge has been accomplished, though it is just that someone or something else has acted in our stead.
Christians do this too often, and they soothe their consciences by saying that they did not take vengeance on the offending person, but nevertheless, “he got what he deserves.” After all, everyone knows “what goes around comes around,” right? The plain fact of the matter is that such an attitude is sinful — displeasing in the sight of our Father. Rather than rejoicing at the tragedy of an enemy, one should mourn. Genuine grief is a part of loving our enemies as Jesus commanded when in Matthew 6:44-45 He said, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Rather than delighting, one should lament the bad fortune, pain, adversity or tragedy that came on one who hurt us. Human nature tells us such an attitude is ridiculous, but godliness tells us we are rising above human nature to have “the mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Some three thousand years ago, the inspired Solomon wrote to his “son” in Proverbs 24:17-18, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him.” Why would Solomon give this command when it is so contrary to human nature and so difficult to accomplish without a degree of hypocrisy? Possibly, for four reasons: First, it is the will of God that we take no satisfaction in any kind of evil, not even what comes on perceived enemies. Second, it is a part of the pathway to sonship of our Father in Heaven. Third, it is much healthier for us mentally, emotionally and certainly spiritually, showing the Christian’s ability to rise above the crowd! Fourth, it is Christ-like; one is never more like his Lord than when he overcomes evil with good (Romans 12:21)!
How to Treat Our Enemies!
Sometimes, it is difficult to see that the goodness of the Gospel should be chosen over the bitterness in the hearts of men. Often, others will speak hurtfully without knowing it. The harmful ways and actions will be born out of a heart that has grown through worldly living. The question is, though, upon what will you choose to focus? Will it be the good or the evil?
Though evil may be present in the minds of others, Peter told Christians, “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully, for what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:19-20). Jesus certainly had those who did evil toward Him, and yet, He loved them and treated them with dignity.
Notice John 13. Jesus ate with the twelve disciples and washed their feet before dinner. He then announced that one of them would betray Him. Yet, no one knew that it was Judas. When Judas got up and left the room, there were several thoughts in the disciples’ minds about where he was going, but no one knew that Jesus spoke of him. Jesus treated him without anger! He asked us to do the same to our enemies. Jesus said in Matthew 5:39, ‘‘But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also.” It is true that you may be assaulted, at least verbally, at some point in your Christian life by people who think they are doing right. However, you should never let it embitter you. Simply turn the other cheek.
The calling of God is certainly a high calling. It raises us above the world and asks us to respond to the wrong doings of man with a heavenly response. Jesus knows our sufferings from others and asks us to look at His sufferings as our example of what to do. Don’t fight back! Instead, choose the high road and see the good in others, as Christ would have. Think about it.