Content - Main Photo (?):   Blog Website Background Banner

 Friends & Enemies

Blog 02-05-2022

It is said that the emperor Sigismund was reproached for being too lenient to his enemies by rewarding them in defeat rather than destroying them, to which he replied: “Do I not destroy my enemies by making them my friends?

I like that story even though it has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln and many other rulers. I like it because it reminds me of Christ’s outlook on friends and enemies. Jesus was teaching his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5) and one of his teaching points are on love for enemies:

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ Matthew 5:43-45 (NIVUK)

Paul later gives instructions to the Roman church on what a Godly life looks like as he very succinctly describes love in action:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:

If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good
Romans 12:17-21 (NIVUK)

Now remember that this is not just another nice, unproven idea that a guy from the olden days told us to follow. No. Christ lived the perfect example of love in action. If he did not, you and I would not be able to be part of God’s family. Paul writes:

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. 
Romans 5:10-11 (NIVUK)

We were God’s enemies once, but by his great grace and mercy he welcomed us into his family through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God destroyed us as enemies by turning us into his friends by destroying Jesus and resurrecting him to life again.

Our natural inclination is usually to try and justify why we’re not following Christ’s teaching and example of love for enemies, isn’t it? For example, I have moments where I’d prefer to be right in an argument than to be loving. There is usually a way of being both (right and loving) in any argument, but if being right means I will not be loving, I need to stop and reassess, because Jesus expects perfection when it comes to loving your enemies.

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:46-48 (NIVUK)

Love is only really love (the kind of love that Jesus modelled and expects from us) when it is directed at the unlovable; the people we find it most difficult to love unconditionally.

I have an unofficial list of people who really test my ability to love unconditionally. They include drivers who cut me off, people who are unjust (according to my own high standards…), and fans of opposition sports teams when my team loses. And every now and then, I’ve noticed, I am confronted with someone on this list, maybe by chance, maybe by God’s design.

Maybe it is to test my resolve in loving the unlovable. Maybe it is because that person is in need of love at that specific time and I am closest. Maybe it is because I’m in need of love and that person is in a position to love me. Whatever the reason, I hope and pray that I will pass the test. And I hope and pray that you will too.

A Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you know me. You know my fears, you know my shortcomings, my sins. Yet you love me still. Thank you for your love and care. Help me love those around me as you have loved me. To the glory of your name alone. Amen.

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash 

Nico Marais, 02/05/2022