Former university professor of marketing and communications, Sallie is an independent publisher and marketing communications consultant.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Why do we have enemies? Why can't we all just get along and love one another? Good questions, huh? I believe the answer to both is "because Satan is after you and me." In fact, he’s after any living, breathing Christian, because ultimately, he exists at odds with Christianity. He exists at odds with righteousness. He exists at odds with goodness. And that’s because he exists at odds with God and Jesus Christ.
The existence of evil in the world ensures the existence of enemies of God, and enemies of those who choose to follow God. It also ensures that life will be filled with good and bad experiences. And, without both good and bad experiences in our lives, we would have no opportunities for personal growth. No chances for negative, unholy things to add to our understanding of life. We could not gain wisdom through experience, because all of our experiences would be positive.
Still, it is important to remember that just as the disobedience of one man (Adam) brought sin to the world that was visited upon many, the death of one man (Jesus Christ) brought forgiveness of sin to many. That means God’s enemies and our enemies are still under God’s love, and He wants us to help them all become His children.
Who is Your Enemy?
It is all right not to agree with someone about something. But for some people, that's all the reason they need not to like you, or even to become your enemy. Instead of agreeing to disagree, to simply "live and let live," some people will choose instead to become your sworn enemy, angry that you won't betray your own beliefs to adopt theirs. If this person then uses every opportunity he or she gets to work against you in any way possible, because they are acting out of anger toward you, they are committing sins against you.
When people choose to pursue a sinful path, they are choosing to become involved in actions and activities that the Bible says are evil, things that are pleasing to Satan. And, if you are trying to live your life for God, those who pursue the opposite path, often, will feel intimidated by you. Why? Because the path you've chosen for your life is diametrically opposite to the one they've chosen, and, since you will not join them on their path, they see you as opposed to them, instead of the path they've chosen.
Did you know that there is nothing good that exists, that pleases Satan? According to the Bible, he is always busy looking for ways to destroy anything associated with good, because true goodness is from God, and Satan hates God. He hates everything God has created for goodness sake, and it is his desire to destroy the good that God has created. He is on a mission to turn upside down everything that God created right side up.
If you read the Bible, you will find that Satan wants to bring darkness to any place and anything where God has provided illumination. As part of his sinister plan, Satan is constantly on the lookout for our weaknesses or any opportunity he can find, to intervene and interfere with us, with our lives, and even with the goodness of God. What makes it possible for him to be able to be in so many places at the same time is the fact that he works through people and things, just as God does. As the Scripture points out in John 3:19-21, Satan takes advantage of the fact that God has condemned our flesh to weaknesses. He also takes advantage of the fact that God has given us all a free will, and because we can choose to do good or evil, we are all susceptible to the ravages of evil:
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
Should You Interact With Those Who Don't Like You?
Someone asked me if it is wrong not to like someone, and I said, "it depends." Then I explained that if by "not liking" you mean that you hate the other person, then it is wrong. If, on the other hand, you simply mean you and the other person are not "compatible" as friends, then as long as you harbor no hate in your heart for that person, then you are not committing a sin by simply choosing not to associate with him or her. You can even hate someone's ways or the things you know they do that you know are wrong, but you still should love the person, as a human being.
Because we have to interact, sometimes, with people who do not like us, it is a good idea to look for the "good" in the other person. Everyone has something good about him or her, and if you do your best to discover someone's goodness, you might find that you can "overlook" other not-so-pleasant things in order to interact with them, as needed.
And don't forget to pray for those who do not like you. If they have wronged you in some way, forgive them, whether or not they ask for your forgiveness. Remember, if you don't forgive those who wrong you, God will not forgive you your wrongs. That means by forgiving your enemy, you are giving a gift to them and to yourself, one that actually serves to help you most of all, because it pleases God for you to forgive.
Why Does God Allow the Actions of Enemies?
In the book of James, we learn that God sometimes allows enemies to come into our lives to give us opportunities to learn and grow from our experiences in dealing with them. James 1:2-4 says:
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Without suffering, trials, temptations, and challenges in life, there would be no opportunities for growth and true, personalized understanding. For example, if every day were sunny and bright, we would never learn to appreciate a sunny day—because we wouldn’t have anything to compare it to. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-5:
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
Paul is teaching us that everything we go through in life, be it good or bad, works together for our good when we love, and are therefore led, by God. In the Scripture above, Paul is simply saying that life is made better for us through personal growth, and that personal growth involves a process of refinement. For example, when we experience pain or problems with our health, it is then that we truly learn to appreciate our health and not take it for granted. It is when we go through the trials and tribulations of life that we learn to appreciate joyful times, and experiencing both is how we grow wiser.
Without both the good and bad experiences, we would have no personal growth. Nothing would be added to our understanding of life. We could not gain wisdom. Sometimes, when enemies come into our lives, God uses the experience to teach us lessons we will need in order to grow in our understanding of the gospel. Without this understanding, we would be unable to move to the next level of life that God wants us to move into.
How Are We to Treat Enemies?
God wants us to love our enemies. That is clearly written in the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments. No matter how difficult it seems to be, it is God’s desire that we treat our enemies with kindness, and that we love them as human beings.
Why? Is it because enemies are just as loveable as anyone else? Of course not! In fact, it is because enemies are much less lovable, to us, than anyone else. It’s easy to love those who love us. It’s even easy to love those who have no feelings whatsoever toward us. But to love those who hate us—now that is a challenge. But God always asks us to do what we might believe is impossible, because that is how we become stronger. Therefore, our command is to love our enemies, because love is the only thing that can conquer hate.
Love is the only thing that can conquer the hatred an enemy has for you, and it can insure that you develop no hatred toward your enemies. Jesus Christ is a conqueror of hate, and He wants us to be conquerors of hate as well. Hate cannot conquer hate. The only thing that hate can do is to seed, provoke, and inspire even more hate.
In Romans 12:19-21 the Bible says:
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This Scripture tells us, in no uncertain terms, how God wants us to behave toward those who become our enemies. We also learn from studying the Bible that God has His own ways of handling enemies of` Him and His people. He has an appointed time and method for so doing. Deuteronomy 32:35 says: “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste."
Add to that what is written in Leviticus 19:18, which says: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” And then, in 2 Timothy 4:14-15, we're told: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works.”
It is clear from these and other Holy Scripture, that we are to leave recompense and vengeance to God. He will repay all our enemies, and in the eyes of God, we all are either children of God, or enemies of God (Matthew 12:30).
Should You Try to Become Friends With an Enemy?
The Bible teaches that being in alliance with sin and evil is incompatible with Christianity. God tells us in 2 Corinthians, 6:14-16: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
In fact, God wants us to take ourselves out of harm’s way. The 23rd Psalm contains these words: “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I believe this lets us know that God does not expect us to deliberately place ourselves in harm’s way. I believe God wants and expects us to stay away from those who are wicked, and who mean us or others no good. In order to “shun evil,” we have to be mindful of Satan and his tricks. The only reason to ever confront an evil-minded person is to try to help bring them to God. We are not to seek out the counsel of the ungodly, because they are not likely to give us wise counsel, and it would be a foolish act to go to them for such things.
In conclusion, here is a summary of some of the main points I’ve made in this article:
- As Christians, we should expect to have enemies, as did Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 5:11-12,10:2.2; John 15:18).
- Our enemies are people in need of prayer and kindness. We should pray for them, and make every effort possible to treat them with kindness. Matthew 5:43-48; Proverbs 24:17-18; Acts 7:60).
- Christians should continue to believe and trust in God, and to study, learn and preach the gospel, living as an example of Christ (Philippians 1:28). Someone may become saved by your example.
- God wants us to separate ourselves from evil. Therefore, we don’t have to feel that we must “befriend” people who do the devil’s bidding, in order to treat them with kindness. God does not want or expect us to put ourselves in harm’s way by aligning ourselves with evil.
- When the person who is our enemy is in the workplace, it presents a special challenge. While we work with them, we cannot separate ourselves from them. In such instances, your focus must be placed on your work, and you must do all you can to work in harmony with someone who might not like you, personally.
- Some people feel they must find the good in their enemies so that they can love them. But God says we are to love them even if they have no redeemable qualities. We don’t even have to like them. But we are to love them as we love ourselves, based simply on their humanity. That does not mean we have to love their evil ways. In fact, we should love the sinner, and hate the sin.
Sallie B Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on October 09, 2012:
Thanks so much James. We all have them, and they're all people who, for us, are very hard to love. Especially those who seem bent on making themselves as unlovable as possible by aligning closely with what God has identified for us all as wrong or evil. I find it to be a particularly difficult challenge as a Christian to love my enemies. I wrote this article for me and for anyone else who has to work hard to love enemies. I find it helps a lot to write about my own challenges.
James A Watkins from Chicago on October 09, 2012:
Thank you for this wonderful Hub. I agree with your words 100 percent. It is hard to love the seemingly unlovable, and, as you said so well, a real challenge to love those who hate us or mistreat us. But that is our charge. Well said!
Sallie B Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on October 02, 2012:
Thanks so much BlossomSB. I truly believe it's best for all concerned. When you pray for your enemies, in a loving way, you are letting go of any animosity, and wanting only the best for them. It makes life so much "lighter" because you leave the heavy lifting to God. Thanks so much for reading. You're such a gem!
Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on October 02, 2012:
King David had many troubles with his enemies, too. I love the way he expressed his feelings in the psalms. How I wish the tunes had come down to us, too. An interesting hub. It is a wise person who prays for his enemies and then leaves it up to God to deal with. God bless.