How Do You Respond To Your Enemies? How SHOULD You Respond?

This is a hard thought for us at any time. Our understanding of an enemy is one who has done, or wishes to do harm to us. This verse seems to defy our sense of logic. It does not, according to appearances, seem wise. But we are challenged by another kind of wisdom here; the wisdom of God.

There a couple of things to be contemplated here. The first is that we as Christians are not to take it upon ourselves to take revenge. We are commanded to leave that to God, who, of course, is the only one capable of true justice. Still, this is hard for us, because we want satisfaction NOW. We are impatient. Revenge, though, is usually unjust itself. It is an act done in blindness, the blindness of rage. There is no room for mercy in it. Who could be more offended than God for all of our sinful actions great and small, yet his response is to give himself as an eternal sacrifice of forgiveness in Jesus on the cross.

The other thought for consideration is subtly hidden in the words of this verse. The enemy before us here is, for whatever reason, hungry and thirsty. We are to see “hunger and thirst” here as a metaphor for vulnerability. In our human way of thinking, we might say, “Ah, now is the time to get my revenge, for my enemy is weak and vulnerable before me.” But this is not what God wants of us. Rather, he wants us to be restrained by humility here and to let God’s justice take its proper course in its proper time. Our mercy and our compassion toward the enemy is what God wants. It is through this that the enemy may come to see the errors of his or her ways, feel remorse for them, and turn from them. Or, if they still feel refuse reconciliation, God’s justice will far surpass anything that we could bring to bear.

It is through generous mercy that we may turn our former enemies into potential friends. It all comes down to the matter of our free will. We are, all of us, infinitely free to choose to live in accord with God and others, or to be enemies. “See, I set before you today life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) Life and death are before us. Choose one. But know, too, that all choices have their appropriate and just consequences.

Lord, help us to see the wisdom of this passage in our daily lives. Let us choose to be sowers of your love in all of our thoughts, words, and deeds. Give us the strength and the courage to choose mercy and kindness over hate and revenge. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.