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Dealing with your Enemies

Dealing with your Enemies


Like everybody here, on occasion I, myself
have had to deal with someone who offended me for some reason or other. It
happens. And if I kind of examine my own feelings during those times while going
through this experience, I realize how easily and quickly you can hurt or
offend somebody. I mean, just a word, describing something with the
wrong word or the wrong emphasis or the type of smile you have on
your face when somebody says something, or just body language. It doesn’t take
an hour to offend somebody. It happens very, very, very quickly,
however, how long it can take to sort out all of your feelings over something that
may have taken place in just a few moments, that’s a whole other thing. Something happens in like two seconds, but it takes you two weeks to
kind of sort out all your feelings about it. That’s the thing about being
offended. I suppose the most difficult issue to deal with when these things
happen is, “How do I respond as a Christian?” That’s always the big problem,
“How do I respond as a Christian?” If I were not a believer, there would be
various responses to offenses, chief of which would be revenge. I mean,
if there’s no God and no judgment at the end, then I am going to exercise judgment,
I’m going to take revenge, I am going to get even, or at best, justice or closure.
But responding as a Christian when offended is a more difficult and
demanding thing. We know that the basic idea is to react with love, but how do
you express that love to someone with whom you are in conflict? That’s the
problem. Now, there are many passages in the New Testament that
deal with this very problem And this evening, I’d like to examine a
few of them that teach us how we should respond to our enemies. Well first of all,
let’s talk about non-Christian enemies. We need to realize that we have
different kinds of enemies, don’t we? And God helps us to respond to each kind of
enemy that we have in different ways. For example, we have non-Christian enemies.
Those who offend us, oppress us, or are against us in some way or another, but
they themselves are non-believers. For this kind of enemy, Jesus says, “Do not
resist Him who is evil.” Who are you talking about when you’re saying, “Don’t
resist Him who is evil.”? Obviously, a non-Christian or a person who is one in
name only. “But whoever slaps you on the right cheek,” He says ” that turned to Him
the other also.”, Matthew 5:39. And it’s interesting, all the examples that He
gives in this passage, all deal with people who are not
Christians. Of course, Jesus is using a highly dramatic image here to make His
point, but in everyday language, how do we turn the other cheek?
Well, Paul answers that question in Romans chapter 12. Romans chapter 12 is
the “how” to turn the other cheek. So in practical terms then, He is saying, “When
someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to Him the other in the following way.
Number one: Don’t seek revenge. And we should go to Romans 12, by the way. Let me
just read that passage before I get into the explanation. Romans chapter 12 going
down to verse 17. He says, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is
right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be
at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room
for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ says the
Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him and if he is thirsty, give him a
drink; for in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be
overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This is how you turn the
other cheek to someone who is not a Christian, who has offended you. Number
one, He says, don’t seek revenge. It may be appealing, it may be satisfying, it may
be justifying, but don’t you do it. he says. Secondly: Don’t escalate. Seek
peace instead. Your goal after your offense is to create a peaceful
environment. This is what you need to be doing, not plotting revenge. “I’ve
been offended by that person, what am I gonna do? I have to do something!” Okay,
try to create an environment of peace with that person. That’s what you need to
be, quote, “doing”. Number three, He says: Overcome the evil thing that was done to
you with good prayer. Excuse me, pray for the enemy, bless them if the opportunity
arises. This replaces the evil thing done with good things. Sometimes you
don’t have access to that person, they live in, I don’t know, Las Vegas
somewhere, and you live over in New York. You don’t get to see that
person, how can you create the environment of good? How can you do
something good for that part? Well, you can always pray for that person. You can
always keep that person in your prayer. That’s one way of turning the other
cheek. Our responsibility toward our non-Christian enemy is not revenge or
even justice, but rather a witness of God and a witness of our faith with Christ.
So, to the question that is asked, “Well what do I do now? I’ve been offended. I’ve been… What do I do now?” Seek to create a witness for God before that
person. We need to show our enemies the person and the love of Christ, not our ability
to take revenge or to exact justice. Now, I’m not saying that Christians have no
recourse to human justice or law when they are wronged.
I mean, Christians can, and should, appeal to law and justice in this world.
This is right, this is biblical. Paul appealed to Caesar to
avoid a murder plot on His life, Acts 25 verse 11. What if I am
robbed and the police catch the guy that robbed me? I will go to court, I will
press charges, I will work within the law. And if I am violated, I will testify in
court against my attacker. Well, we’ve not been called to be rug mats,
doormats. Human justice and human law, and it’s enforcement, has been given to man
by God for the purpose of mitigating evil in this world, Romans 13:1. And
through its proper exercise, criminals are punished, evil nations are restrained,
society is protected, for this reason. Christians can use it and participate in
its function and should do so in order for God’s will in these matters to be
done towards the guilty. However, regardless of the workings of human
justice, which we must submit to in dealing with our enemies, get this now,
our personal relationship with our non-Christian enemies, exists on
another plane, on a higher plane. The ultimate and most recent example, or
test case, for this, we’ve just gone through that, Osama bin
Laden, the terrorist leader, killed a little while back by American Navy
SEALs. Talk about the ultimate enemy right? He masterminded 9/11, which killed
thousands of people and caused many other deaths and wars and
inconveniences and suffering around the world at the hands of other
terrorists for the last decade at least. He qualifies as an enemy. Human justice and
American military enforcement were meted out to him after a long and costly
search. The opinion of most people, is that he received what he deserved
and they’re happy about it. But my personal attitude toward him continues
to be, turn the other cheek. Why? Because what human justice and law does is
different from what I do as a Christian. Why? Because law and justice are
regulated by the world, for the world, for the purpose of peace and safety under
the administration of God. There’s a place for justice. But my response is
regulated by the kingdom of God, for the purpose of witnessing my faith in Christ.
You see what I’m saying? I’m reacting to enemies as a Christian in a different
way than the law and justice are reacting to my enemy. What the law does
and what I do, those are two different things. And I can do this because,
regardless of what human justice does or does not do, God promises perfect justice
in the end. Even if they never caught that guy, even if that guy disappeared
somewhere and lived the life of luxury until he was a hundred years old and
then died in his sleep, it’s okay. Justice for him will come. Maybe not human
justice, but divine justice, will come. My responsibility as a Christian is still
to turn the other cheek. I pray for my enemies, even while my enemies may be
sought after by the law and judged by justice. I still pray for them. Why?
Because that’s what turning the other cheek demands of me. Now, someone might
say, “Well, what do you do when the enemy is the government or the state?”
But when the enemy is our own government, I believe that Christians
have three options. First, we use the law as it exists, to oppose it.
The civil rights movement used this nonviolent approach to challenge
unfair laws. Again, I refer to Paul appealing to Caesar for a fair hearing.
According to Roman law, he didn’t… Do you read anything in Paul’s writings where
he tries to stir up the Christians to come and march outside the Sanhedrin, or start a guerrilla war and start killing off the high priest and the some of the Pharisees to get… He
didn’t do that. He used the law but he didn’t work to undermine the government,
even if it was wrong in this case. Another thing we can do is, to stand up
and speak truth to power. I don’t know if some of you are familiar with the writer,
philosopher, he was a minister, a Lutheran, I think, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a
minister in World War II Germany and he denounced and he exposed the Nazis for
what they were doing, and in no little time, he was jailed and then ultimately
executed. But, his works were the guiding light of many Germans who resisted Nazi
domination. Peter the Apostle, who continued to witness Christ, despite
threats from the Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin, he spoke truth to the power of
that day. We can do that, we actually live in a country where the law gives us
permission to do that. And then three: We can always flee to a safe place. This is
the difficult choice of many refugees today, trying to escape evil
governments all around the world. Christians who escape Jerusalem after
the death of Stephen in Acts 14. One of their own was killed. Did they go
marching the street that they tried to kill? Again, did they try to
undermine, overwhelm, topple the government, start a
a war of retribution? No. They fled for their lives. They brought
the gospel with them. It’s a good thing that they did. So, Christians we’re not
anarchists, we’re not terrorists, we’re not guerrilla fighters, aiming to
overthrow governments by force. Of course, revolutions, even just ones, occur. But,
this is not what we as Christians are called by Christ to do. The early
Christians did not plot any effort to overthrow the evil and corrupt Roman
government. Our faith and our hope is in God, to help us stand up or to find
safety, and have the wisdom to know when to do which. We have to turn the other
cheek even when the enemy’s the state. God is greater than any government and
He will let it stand or defeat it, in His own way and in His own time. You ever
think about that, when we’re…, the election coming up, and I’m not
gonna get into that. Whoever wins is not gonna win because of an
October Surprise or the machinations of their people
plotting and planning and ripping each other apart in the media.
That’s not, that’s not why they’re gonna win. Whoever wins gets in because God has
permitted it. We might not understand, we might say to God, “Lord how… why did
you permit this person to become the leader of…?” We don’t always understand
the why, but I guarantee you, brothers and sisters, no one gets to be the leader of
this nation without God’s permission. He permits it. He may not like it. His
permission that someone leads is not necessarily a blessing on that person’s
opinions and actions, but He permits it. Every king, every leader
ever lived, reigned because God permitted it. Our number one responsibility as
Christians toward our non-christian enemies is, to witness Christ to them. Not
to defeat them. That’s why Jesus chose to die on the cross, rather than call on the
angels to save Him. If we have made a good witness, we have completed our task
regarding our non-christian enemies and those who offend us. So, I’ve
said a lot here. Can I just shrink this down to into a bite-size? What is my
responsibility towards my non-christian enemy, who offends me or who harms
me? What is my goal with that person? My goal is to witness to them,
not defeat them. Not exercise judgment on them or justice on them. There are other
things, other entities, that will work to do that. My job is witness, always. Okay, how about when a Christian offends us? Well, when a
non-christian offends, the goal is not to forgive but to witness, because
our non-christian enemies, they don’t care about forgiveness. Your forgiveness
doesn’t save their soul. However, if your witness can bring them to Christ, then
they will receive forgiveness from God. And as new Christians, your forgiveness
will then have meaning to them. Now, for Christians who offend you, however, the
goal is not witness. The goal is forgiveness. But again, the New Testament
gives us several different situations where this forgiveness can be worked out.
Go in your Bibles to Luke 17, if you have them. Luke 17, beginning in verse 1, he says, “He said to His disciples, ‘It is inevitable that stumbling blocks
come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a
millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that He
would cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he
sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I
repent’, forgive him.” Now Jesus is speaking here, specifically about your brother,
your Christian brother or sister. Now it’s hard to imagine someone offending
us seven different times in one day and returning for forgiveness each
time, but Jesus is saying even if they did, He would ask you to offer that
forgiveness. Now, this example reminds me of that brother or sister who because of
some personality fault or habit or attitude, that person offends me all day
long. People like that, you don’t want to even be with them, because just
the way they are, just the smile or just their attitude or their tone of
voice or their body language, it just gets on your nerves. They don’t just… I’m not going to
name names, they all go to the morning service, anyway. So, my only
comment to God about these people in my life is, why are these people in
my life? I believe that the answer God gives that, He wants us to grow through
the discipline of forgiveness. That’s the answer to the why. People that challenge
us to repeated acts of forgiveness cultivate in our character all kinds of
virtues including: patience, tolerance graciousness, kindness, and ultimately,
Christian love. In other words, the repeated acts of forgiveness cultivates
in us a loving character. If you have ever asked God to teach you to love
or to expand your capacity for love, His answer will be that, He will put
you in a spiritual gymnasium and will make you repeat the exercise of
forgiveness over and over and over again in all of its forms. So you want a bigger
heart, you want a bigger capacity to love, get ready to be offended. Because,
forgiving inconvenient circumstances and weak people will develop patience in you,
and forgiving differences of opinions, and status, and ability, and maturity will
develop tolerance in you. And forgiving offenses, and pettiness, and unkindness,
and slanders will develop graciousness in you. And forgiving weakness, and
slowness, and poverty, and immaturity, and ignorance will develop kindness in you.
As you forgive repeatedly the character of love will overtake and eventually
super impose itself on your character, on my character. That’s why learning how
to forgive is so important in the development of a mature Christian
character. Number two: dealing with the unrepentant offender. That’s a different
thing. Let’s go to Matthew, you’re familiar with this one,
Matthew 18. This is the unrepentant. You see, at first he says, “If
your brother offends you and then he comes and asks for forgiveness.”
Okay, forgiveness, seven times, right? But, sometimes the brother or sister who
offends us is not repentant, there is no repentance. How do you deal with that
brother? Well, that’s what he talks about in Matthew 18, beginning in verse 15. He
says, “If your brother sins, go and show him fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does
not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or
three witnesses, every fact may be confirmed.” I like that, “Every fact may be
confirmed.” It’s not every impression you have. He doesn’t say ,so
that every suspicion you have, or every emotion you have, or every word that
people have been gossiping to you about. this other person you have. He says a
couple of extra witnesses, so those witnesses can confirm the facts, things
that have actually happened, that they have seen and they know and that
they understand, are wrong. Okay? Very important. Then verse 17 he says, “If
he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church and if He refuses to listen
even to the church; let him be to you as a Gentile and the tax collector. Truly I
say to you, ‘Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you
loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'” So sometimes there’s a person who
offends you or the church, and is unrepentant. A lot of times they don’t
even know they’ve offended you. The greatest single cause of division and
strife and heartache among church members, is that they do not follow this
teaching when it comes to dealing with others who have knowingly, or unknowingly,
offended them or sinned against the church. How do you sin against the church?
Well you claim and everybody outside the church knows you as a Christian, but
you act like a heathen. We don’t have to get into the “how”, we know what sin is. That’s sinning against the church. An
immoral lifestyle, or an unfaithful lifestyle. Now what people usually do is,
they tell or they complain to somebody else. Notice at the very beginning what
Jesus says, “If your brother offends you,” What does he say? “Go to that
brother. How? In private. That is the most disobeyed rule in the New Testament, in
the church, because if we’re offended, usually the first thing we do, we tell
somebody else. We tell somebody else, “You know Joe? Is there any Joe… sorry
Joe Weaver. We tell somebody else, “You know Joe? You know what he said to me?” “Wow, that’s a terrible,” person B over here says, “That’s terrible! Well, we ought to do
something about that.” “Well yeah, what?” “Well, let’s go tell somebody else over there.
Let’s form a posse.” And we wonder why we can’t resolve these things
inside the church. We have trouble resolving these kinds of things inside
of a family of eight or nine people. Can you imagine trying to
resolve this thing in a family of 400 people? You’ve got a limited people to
gossip with. Or the other way, the person who has been offended, represses their
feelings of anger and let it simmer and boil and stew in silent resentment
towards that person or that person’s. And they give that person as
whatever the 20 percent silent treatment or the 80 percent… the 20
percent silent treatment is, I’ll hand you a bulletin and I’ll say
“Good morning”. The 90 percent silent treatment
is, I won’t look at you, I won’t talk to you. I will change… I’m not even
sitting where I used to sit, because that’s where you… or we do that
instead. It’s like being in Junior High. Brothers and sisters, what the Lord says
here, this is not an option. Jesus says that “If your brother sins”, not just a
perception or gossip of sin, but you can actually substantiate that an offense
has occurred. You must, A: go to that person in private to settle the matter. This means that you tell them, in a loving
manner, what the problem is, and how you feel, and how you believe this situation has been offensive to you. That’s where to start. Is that easy to do? Well no, why? Because what might happen
is that person may offend you a second time, but you have to take that risk. And
then B, if they don’t respond you bring several concerned brethren with you who know about the situation. You bring people who are interested
in making things right, not just proving that you’re right. You
don’t bring a lynch mob with a rope. C, if you fail, the church must know, perhaps,
the weight of opinion and concern by the church will bring this person to
repentance and a willingness to make peace. Now, when we talk about, quote,
the church, at this point could be represented by the elders, for example,
who speak on behalf of the church but certainly the entire church is made
aware, somehow. And then finally, D, if the person refuses to respond, even to the
appeal and the encouragement of the body of the church, then the church must turn
away from this person and treat them as a disobedient and rebellious child. We’re
not taking away their salvation. “Some people said, “Well, I can’t decide if a person is going to hell or not.” Well that’s not what you’re
doing, anyways. What you’re doing is you’re calling this person out and
saying, “You see this…?” Like in 99 of the things, you’re a wonderful person but
in this one area here, there’s a sin. There’s a something that needs to be
changed and you need to change it and until you do, you cannot enjoy the fruit
of Christian fellowship. We need to take care of this matter first. Preachers that I’ve known, especially working out in the
mission field, they’re saying, “Well, how do you handle this?” The guy calls me, let’s call him Joe. He’s the trouble one. He calls me
and he wants to talk to me about this and that and the other thing,
and how do I handle that. And I tell them, “This is how you handle that, when
the phone rings and it’s Joe and he starts in on, “So did you see the game
yesterday?”, or what’s going on. He’s trying to be friendly.
You need to politely and lovingly say, “Joe, have you called me in order that we
can talk a bit about resolving that issue? “No.” Well then, we don’t have
anything to talk about. The game or the weather, or yeah We got nothing to talk
about. This thing is in the way for us to kind of get back to talking about and
doing these other things. I guarantee you, if we had that attitude, we would be able
to win back many brothers and sisters who are separated from the church. It
means that you love and you pray for this person, but you do not permit them
to enjoy the good fruit of fellowship. It means you do not consider them part of
your congregation. It means you are polite and kind and patient and ready to
forgive and welcome back, but they must know that their repentance is required
first. If we follow this teaching and trying to deal with unrepentant sinners
who offend us or the church, we would eliminate cliques and feuds and personal
division between brethren, and we would demonstrate that we’re not afraid to
discipline the immoral, the divisive, and the unfaithful. Maybe they’d get the idea
that we actually love their souls. We love them, little children, right?
We have to love them enough to do what? To discipline them. Well, in the
church, we need to love our brethren enough to discipline them, even if that
is what is called for. All right, so another example we have in the New
Testament, dealing with enemies, and that is, dealing with the brother who is
unaware of his offense against you. This time, Luke 11, and I’ll get there in a
minute. This is the trickiest situation because, sometimes
we’re hurt by people who never intended to offend us, or who are completely
unaware that they have by their words or by their deeds. They don’t know that
they’ve made you feel bad. Now, we usually have several options with them. First, we
feel bad and secretly, well, we just hate them. We write them off, used to be friend,
used to be brother. We just scratch them off. We give them, as I
say, the partial silent treatment, hoping that they’ll figure out something is
wrong. This rarely works and it causes more bad feelings, but this time on both
sides, because the person who’s done the offending but is not aware of
it, is starting to get bad vibes from that person and that person now is
thinking, “What’s wrong with that guy? How come he got up? Now, the
originally guilty party, he’s the innocent party now because
he’s offended at your silent treatment. Secondly, go to them and tell them about
what has happened and how you feel. I believe that most brethren will
apologize, saying they didn’t mean it. They weren’t aware of it, but you end
up feeling foolish and immature. That’s the risk, it’s like cornering
someone where they have no chance but to either insult you some more or apologize and a lot of little satisfaction. Or we can simply do what Jesus says, ” Forgive
everyone who is indebted to us” Luke 11 verse 4. To freely forgive someone who
has offended us but is unaware, is truly not letting the right hand know what the
left hand is doing, and so much more satisfying than demanding an apology.
Okay so, we’ve dealt with the repeat offender, the unrepentant offender, the
brother who is unaware of his offense. One last category that we have to
include dealing with of enemies, dealing with the brother that you offend
like you’re the guilty one, because we’ve all been talking about when
when you’re the innocent one. What happens when you’re the guilty one, when
you’re the one that has done the offense? Matthew 5: 23-24. This is the last one. Jesus says, “Therefore if you are
presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother
has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then
come and present your offering.” Now, this situation is the easiest to
understand, but it’s the most difficult to accomplish. We know in our hearts when we
are wrong, and as Christians we know what we should do. But a lot of times we put
it off the, I said I shot my mouth off and I know that I hurt
brother Joe, I hurt his feelings. I could see it on his face because I know
that’s a sensitive area for whatever reason. Okay? And what we’re Sunday night, it’s getting late, I need to run out,
next Sunday or Wednesday, but then Wednesday, Joe works on
Wednesday night, he doesn’t come. Well, we’ll do it next Sunday, oh wait a minute,
next Sunday, well we’re going out. You know what I’m saying? We just keep
putting it off. Or we rationalize it by saying, “Well there’s no big deal,
they’ll get over it.” I wouldn’t be offended if somebody said that to me. Or
we blamed the other person for provoking us. “Yeah, well, if he didn’t
do this, I wouldn’t have done that.” Sooner or later we have to face God,
to praise Him or to make our requests known to Him. And He says that these
things will fall on deaf ears unless we are right with our brothers first. How
can we be sincere in our love for God if we consciously are the enemy of someone
else and do nothing to make peace with them? How can we do that? So we need to
remember that in situations where the offense is between brothers and sisters
in Christ, the objective is not to win argument or win an apology. The objective
is to win the brother or the sister and restore the unity of the Spirit in the
bond of peace, at the level that we had before, or even greater. And
the thing that I have found whenever resolving a dispute with a
brother or sister and really having an open heart, honest, sincere, loving
discussion. I have found in my experience, the relationship with that person is
even stronger in the future. You love that person even more in the future
because the both of you have managed to work something out, and you’ve managed
to do it with the same objectives, under the same motivation. You love Christ, he
loves Christ. You want peace, he wants peace. You want to do the right thing, he
wants to do the right thing. Boy, when those things are working together, you’re you’re welded together in Christian love. When you’re able to do
things like that. Remember, the only person who wants division in the church,
is Satan. He’s the only person who’s happy when that when that happens. So in
the end, dealing with our enemies, whether they be Christians or non-Christians,
involves our reacting with Christian love to their actions. When it comes to
dealing with the offenses of our enemies against us, God requires the most
difficult expression of that love. The one that sees us dying to self. Facing
our fear of rejection and heart in order to save someone we don’t particularly
care about at that moment. This is what loving your enemy is all about. I Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Peter doesn’t say that love
justifies or excuses sins, but rather that love, through its humbling efforts,
will restore their brothers soul. And in doing so, will cover their sins with the
blood of Christ, and demonstrate clearly that we are true disciples of Jesus
Christ. So, when considering these things, what do you think your need is
as far as dealing with your enemies is concerned? Do you need to give up
fighting your enemy and begin witnessing to your enemy instead? Do you need to
deny your pride and stubbornness and reach out to someone who needs to find
forgiveness from God and from you? Or, do you need to seek forgiveness for
yourself for something that you have done, something that you are hiding. The
Lord encourages you to go to those who need your witness or who
need your forgiveness, or come to Him for your own forgiveness
this evening, as we stand as we sing our song of encouragement.

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