Enemies are a fact of life for Christians who are living and proclaiming the truth of God (2 Timothy 3:12). We must love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:44). This will be extraordinarily difficult. But one of our best methods of coping will be knowledge. The following principles are helpful in this endeavor.
First, we can only control ourselves. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). We cannot make other people like us nor can we control their prejudices, insecurities, and pettiness. We must do the best that we can with the knowledge of how we will be accepted by Satan’s forces (John 8:44).
Second, we must always see the bigger picture. We must see the world in a different light than the non-Christian. We must look at everything in view of eternity and our allegiance to God.
We imagine a set of scales. We are faced with temptations and challenges and we weigh them in terms of our souls (Matthew 16:26). Is it worth losing our soul over? Is it worth damaging the souls of others? When the Christian faces decisions in this light, they are easily answered. Humans would rather not even think about the future, as it is too uncomfortable. It is just easier to live in the moment, allowing pleasure to be our guide (Philippians 3:19).
Third, flawed people will always exist. They will present obstacles and challenges to our faith and patience. We cannot eliminate all of them, we can only be aware that they exist and try to control ourselves in their presence. Because of free will and human weakness, we cannot change everyone to suit our personalities. They will continue to be insecure and handle their emotions and weaknesses in inappropriate ways.
Fourth, we aren’t always the source of people’s anger. Oftentimes, we just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have also, on occasion, wrongfully vented our anger in unhealthy ways. We should try to learn not to take everything personally.
Fifth, godly people inflame a guilty conscience. Those who are aware of their sins and have not been able to silence their consciences will direct their frustration and guilt at the Christian who reminds them of their sin. Christians must be mature enough to realize that God is the subject of their anger (John 15:18,19). We are just available.
Sixth, forgiveness is not natural to man. It must be accomplished with great effort. Man’s way is revenge while God teaches, “turning the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39). Man waits for the groveling of the offender; God teaches that we treat them as we would wish to be treated. We must consciously work to live as God desires. We cannot do so on autopilot. It takes the suppression of our sinful weaknesses and attention to the higher cause of Christ. It will be difficult every time.
Enemies are a danger to all of our souls. We must learn to properly deal with them before they inflict their greatest blow upon our eternal souls. To allow our souls to be cast in hell because of an enemy is to allow them their sweetest victory.
Will we give them their sweetest victory?