A Real-life Lesson in “Loving My Enemy”

“But I tell you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27

I had every reason to hate her. She attacked me with hate-filled words. She criticized me as a mother and as a Christian, attacked my faith, criticized my decisions and filled her tirade with contempt. Her words spilled over with venom and spite. She even brought her friends in to throw their barbs at me.   She clearly hated me. Wasn’t I justified in hating her?

To the world, yes. I had every justification to hate her and attack her back. To throw around a few barbs and verbal missiles of my own.  That’s what she was trying to do, to bate me into a verbal battle. That’s what she deserves right? I should call my friends and bash her just as badly as she bashed me.

But I don’t live by the code of the world. I live by the Word of God and the example of Jesus Christ.

So the next day, my heart still heavy with pain and grief, as I came to my early morning time with the Lord, I prayed about the situation. I asked God for wisdom. He had witnessed this conversation. He was aware of the hate this person has for me. Surely He would say my anger is justified. I sat down and opened my first devotional reading for the day. Colossians 3:13 – “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The next devotional reading took me to Luke 6:27, our key verse. “But I tell you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Wait God…what? Forgive? Love? Do good? Bless? Pray? Did you even pay attention to that whole mess at all God? I am the one who got bashed here! Why should I have to be the one to forgive and do good and bless? And love? You really can’t be serious!

I turned to the last devotional Scripture for the morning, Matthew 5:43-48. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons [and daughters] of your Father in Heaven” (v. 44-45).  And there it was. God was not telling me I was justified in my anger. He was telling me if I wanted to live the genuine Christian life, I couldn’t respond like the world responds. He was telling me that I had to live in a radically different way. He was telling me that if I want to be His daughter, I must love my enemy.

And the truth is, no person is truly my enemy. Paul says “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). No man or woman is our enemy. We have only one enemy, Satan. He is the one who is behind every act of hate and every attack for man against man. Retaliation only breeds more hatred and keeps the battle going, and this is what our real enemy is trying to accomplish. Whatever is done against me, by the hands or words of another person, Satan is the force behind it. He is my enemy. If I keep this truth in mind, I can respond to another person’s attacks with forgiveness, I can pray for them, and yes, I can even love them.

I must confess, the “love” part is not as easy to do as it sounds on paper. And as I read those Scriptures, I had to tell God, “I can’t do this on my own. The only way I can love this person is if you help me. You have to love her through me, because I can’t God – it’s not in me.” And that is the whole point. I can’t. Love –genuine love – has to come from God. That’s what the Apostle John says, “Let us love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7). Listen to this, “We know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16). I can only love the one who hates and mistreats me because God loves me, and His love fills me up and spills out onto the one I cannot love on my own.

My heart was hurt. The attack was brutal. The pain was severe. But this person isn’t just someone I can write off and walk away from. I have been called by God to respond in a Christ-like manner. I have been called to forgive and bless and pray and love. But I desperately need help. Only God can overcome my human heart that wants withhold love and protect itself from abuse and hurt. Only God can help me to love. Because He is love.

Merciful, loving Father, please I pray, take my broken heart, my battered spirit and my mind that is full of turmoil and apply the healing balm of Your love and peace.  I cannot love in my own strength – the truth is, in my own nature, I don’t want to love. But this is what you have called me to do. Help me Abba, to soak up Your love so that I can love, even in the face of hate. Amen.

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The Battle is On!

“I have hidden your Word in my heart,” Psalm 119:11

When Satan comes to pick a fight, you’d better have something bigger than a pocketknife in your hand.

Spiritual warfare. Not a phrase that makes us all warm and fuzzy, but we need to realize that spiritual warfare is very real, and as the end draws nearer, the battles will become more fierce. We have a cartoon image of the devil – red long-johns, a tail, horns and a pitchfork. We joke around that “the devil made me do it,” and we expect to flick him off our shoulder like a pesky fly. Dear friend, you and I need to wise up. We need to know that the devil is real, that he is powerful, and he hates us because God loves us. And we need to know how to fight him. Because whether you signed up or not; if you are a child of God, Satan has declared war on you.

If that thought makes you want to run and hide, let me assure you – the Lord God has not left you defenseless. First He has promised His presence to protect us, Isaiah 52:12 says “The Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” The Lord is both before you and behind you. The enemy will encounter Jehovah Gibbor Milchamah – the Lord Mighty in Battle, before he can reach you. And he cannot launch a surprise attack from behind, for he cannot get past Elohim Tsebaoth – God of the Angel Armies.

He has also provided us with His own mighty armor, found in Ephesians 6:13-17. “The belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…feet fitted with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace…the shield of faith…the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” We are going to study closely each piece of the Armor of God over the coming weeks, but today we are going to look at “the sword of the Spirit.” In the Sword of the Spirit, He has given you and me the weapon that causes Satan to tremble-the Holy and Mighty Word of the Living God. It was Jesus’ own weapon of choice when Satan came to tempt Him in the wilderness-every offer the devil threw at Him, Jesus countered with Scripture.

Did you notice that Paul called the Word of God the “sword of the Spirit”? Let’s see another passage that uses the same image. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword.” Want an even stronger picture? Revelation 1:12-16 describes the God-Man, Jesus Christ as He appears in John’s vision; verse 16 tells us “out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.” Even in the heavens, Jesus still uses the Sword of the Spirit to deliver justice.

So where do we get this sword, and how do we learn how to use it? Our key verse gives us the answer – we hide God’s Word in our heart. Simply put, we memorize Scripture. Every verse, every passage, every promise and every truth adds to the weight and length and strength of your Sword. And the more you study the Word and meditate on it, the more adept you will be at using it. Is there a particular area of weakness or stronghold where Satan usually attacks? Look for Scripture that addresses that area. Read the verses aloud, write them on notecards and place them in areas like the kitchen, your desk, your bathroom mirror or bedside table. Get a journal and write the verses out, look up the words, consider how this verse applies to your life – these are all excellent “drills” to help you grow in knowledge and strength in the Word of the Lord.

Consider this, when Satan launches an attack against you, and all you know is John 3:16, (which is an awesome verse to know), you are trying to defeat the enemy with a pocketknife. But if you have been reading, studying, meditating and memorizing Scripture, when you reach into your heart where that Word has been stored and grab hold of those verses, you are going to pull out a SWORD that will send your enemy reeling and scrambling to get away. That’s how the child of God does battle with the enemy of our soul.

Dear friend, we cannot pretend that the battle does not exist, lest we do so at our own peril. Our enemy is very real, he is powerful and he is on the prowl. But you and I have the presence of God, the power of the blood of Christ, and the perfect Word of the Lord God Almighty. It is time to take up the armor of God, grab your Sword, and stand on the Name of Jesus and the Word of God. How about making this verse your starting point: “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

 

Mighty God, the enemy is real, the battle is real. But You have given me Your Armor and Your promise to stand with me against my foe. Make me strong in Your Word and in Your mighty Spirit. Amen.