Enemies are a part of life. They come in various forms, from individuals who hurt us emotionally or physically to entire nations who threaten our way of life. As Christians, we are called to love our enemies, but what does that really mean? How should we deal with those who oppose us or seek to harm us? The Bible has much to say about enemies, and it offers us guidance on how we should approach this challenging aspect of life.
In this article, we will explore what the Bible teaches us about enemies. We will look at examples from the Old and New Testaments and examine how God’s people dealt with their enemies. We will also discuss how Jesus and the apostles taught Christians to handle those who opposed them. We will explore the concepts of forgiveness and love, which are crucial to dealing with enemies, and see how these concepts are demonstrated throughout the Bible.
Whether we are dealing with personal enemies or those who threaten our faith, the Bible offers us wisdom and guidance on how to respond. As we seek to follow Christ and live out our faith in the world, understanding what the Bible teaches about enemies can help us navigate this challenging aspect of life with grace and love.
Enemies in the Old Testament
Enemies in the Old Testament are often portrayed as those who are opposed to God’s people. Here are some examples of enemies in the Old Testament:
- Pharaoh: The ruler of Egypt who enslaved the Israelites.
- The Philistines: A group of people who frequently fought against the Israelites.
- Goliath: A giant warrior from Gath who was killed by David.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see God’s people instructed to deal with their enemies in various ways. Some examples include:
In Deuteronomy 7:1-2, God instructs the Israelites to destroy the nations in the land they are entering because these nations are enemies of God. God commanded this destruction to purify the land for His people to settle in and to prevent the Israelites from being influenced by the idolatrous practices of the enemy nations.
Making Peace with Them
In 2 Chronicles 20:22-23, King Jehoshaphat leads the Israelites in prayer and worship, and God causes their enemies to turn on each other, sparing the Israelites. Jehoshaphat sought God’s help when he faced an overwhelming enemy force. God answered his prayer by intervening and confusing the enemy army, leading to their self-destruction.
Another example of making peace with enemies is found in Genesis 26, where Isaac, the son of Abraham, made peace with the Philistines despite their previous conflicts. He recognized that they were important neighbors, and through peaceful negotiation, they reached an agreement.
Enemies in the New Testament
Enemies in the New Testament are often portrayed as those who oppose Christ and his followers. Some examples of enemies in the New Testament include:
- The Pharisees: Religious leaders who opposed Jesus and his teachings.
- Judas Iscariot: One of Jesus’ disciples who betrayed him.
Jesus and the apostles taught Christians to deal with their enemies in various ways, such as:
Praying for Them
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus instructs his followers to pray for those who persecute them. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul also instructs Christians to pray for everyone, including those in authority. This shows that Christians should have a heart of love for their enemies and pray for them, even if they do not agree with their actions or beliefs.
In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies and do good to those who hate them. Love means putting others’ needs above our own and seeking to build bridges rather than walls, even with those who have hurt us.
In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus tells Peter that he should forgive his brother not just seven times, but seventy times seven. This shows that Christians should have a heart of forgiveness towards their enemies, even if they continue to do us harm.
The Concept of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a crucial concept in the Bible, especially when it comes to dealing with enemies. We see many examples of forgiveness in the Bible, including:
Joseph Forgiving His Brothers
In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers who had sold him into slavery, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” This shows that Joseph recognized that God had a plan even in the midst of his brothers’ evil actions. He chose to forgive them and even saw the good that came out of it.
Jesus Forgiving Those Who Crucified Him
In Luke 23:34, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Even while he was dying on the cross, Jesus chose to forgive those who had put him there, showing the ultimate example of forgiveness.
Christians are instructed to forgive their enemies, just as they have been forgiven by God. This can be a difficult task, but it is essential if we want to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Holding onto grudges and bitterness can only harm us and hinder our relationship with God. Forgiveness frees us from the weight of our anger and bitterness and allows us to move forward in love and peace.
Loving Your Enemies
Loving your enemies is another crucial concept in the Bible. Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies and do good to those who hate them (Luke 6:27-28). Some examples of loving your enemies in the Bible include:
Jesus Loving and Forgiving Those Who Crucified Him
In Luke 23:34, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Even while he was dying on the cross, Jesus chose to forgive those who had put him there, showing the ultimate example of love and forgiveness.
The Good Samaritan
In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells the story of a man who was beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite both pass him by, but a Samaritan stops to help him and care for him, even though Samaritans were traditionally enemies of the Jews. This story shows that we should love and care for everyone, even those who are different from us or who may have hurt us in the past.
Loving your enemies is not always easy, but it is an essential part of being a Christian. When we love our enemies, we show the same kind of love that God has shown to us. It also helps to break down barriers and bring reconciliation to broken relationships.
In conclusion, the Bible has a lot to say about enemies. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, we see God’s people dealing with enemies in various ways. However, one common thread is the importance of forgiveness and love. As Christians, we are called to forgive our enemies, love them, and pray for them. This is not always an easy task, but with God’s help, we can follow in the footsteps of Christ and show love and forgiveness to even our enemies.
Remembering that our ultimate enemy is Satan, who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and seeking God’s help in dealing with our earthly enemies is the key to living a life of love, peace, and forgiveness. May we always strive to love our enemies as Christ loved us, and may God give us the grace and strength to do so.