Perhaps one of the most noticeable differences between the behavior of Christians and non-Christians is their response to enemies.
Non-Christians are less likely to give it any thought and will turn to any number of natural human reactions: fight back, threaten, hold a grudge, become bitter, hate, glare, scream. At best, they hope their enemies end up in hell because that’s what they deserve.
Everyone knows the Christian’s duty: Love your enemies.
Then tell me what we’re supposed to do with this:
When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:
“The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the sceptor of rulers . . . the cypresses rejoice at you . . . Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come . . . You, too, have become as weak as we! . . . Your pomp is brought down to Sheol . . . How you are fallen from heaven . . . May the offspring of evildoers nevermore be named . . . Prepare slaughter for his sons . . .”
Not a very nice thing to say, if you ask me.
The people of Israel are oppressed by the great Babylon. Then, when Babylon is punished, the Israelites laugh at Babylon’s king, to his face. Because God told them to.
When I was little, my mom told me to say, “I forgive you,” and to give my evil, candy-thieving baby brother a hug. I’m sure I would have loved to dance around the house, singing, “You’re gonna get in trouble . . . na na-na na-na na.”
My mother taught me what Jesus says.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matt 5:43-44
Jesus takes a standard instruction of the day and demands of his followers something more. Not all that unusual.
Yet, a few questions remain.
1. If Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” why does God say, “Taunt your enemies”?
2. When Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said,” is he referring to instances where God specifically laid down the law? Is Jesus’ new statement a “contradiction” to something God formerly said?
3. What might we learn from biblical examples of responding to enemies with revenge or scorn?
Please do share your thoughts on these questions. Though my ponderings are almost always in progress, I will leave you with my reflection of the moment. Read slowly.
Because God is a God of righteous judgment and wrath, he reserves the right to properly laugh in the face of evildoers and to say, “You don’t win.” Because God is a God of mercy and compassion, he reserves the right to graciously love all sinners in the midst of their sin and to say, “You don’t have to lose.” He gives to all blood-bought followers the right do the latter. He even goes so far as to command it.
[image credit: pixabay.com, journeyoftheword.com]