Sometimes God uses things outside our normal pattern of thinking to guide our minds to places we didn’t intend to go in order to teach us lessons we would have otherwise missed. It seems like He decided to do that with me recently as a news report played out on TV about the Alex Murdaugh murder trial going on in Georgia. Apparently, the drama in the courtroom had made the trial into its own reality TV series, and millions of folks had been mesmerized by it. But in spite of its popularity, I hadn’t been tuning in except for an occasional news report, so I didn’t know enough details to have a strong opinion. All I knew was that the whole grisly affair was further proof that human depravity is a bottomless pit, and I hoped that in this case, justice would not be as elusive as it seems to be in so many situations lately. Beyond that, I didn’t intend to devote much time to thinking about it.
A Question from a Different Perspective ~
But I did find the family connections and unique circumstances interesting, and it gave the episode a compelling aura that made it hard to totally avoid. But a question popped up in my head as I pondered it that came from an unexpected perspective . . . What if the Master Teacher Himself were to ask me if I had gleaned anything worthwhile from my limited exposure to this nationally publicized episode? My initial reaction would have been, “Not really.” But then I imagined Him saying, “Maybe you ought to think about it a bit more.” When He seems to be making a suggestion like that, it’s best to do what He says, so I did, and I was surprised about where it led.
As I thought about the family connections involved in the case, the title of a movie from back in 1991 came to mind. I don’t recall actually seeing it, but the movie was called “Sleeping with the Enemy.” That’s where the path in my thinking took a sharp turn in a different direction. For a person to be living every day in such close proximity with their worst enemy is something no one wants to contemplate, yet that’s exactly what was going on in this case. And it was worse than just being physically close. At least on the surface, they were in a committed love relationship. Lovers and enemies living together, what a profound contradiction. Hmmm… Lovers and enemies, two incredibly powerful concepts with diametrically opposed objectives thrown together in the same space. Who would have ever conceived of such a thing? Maybe you already know the answer?
A Disturbing Proclamation ~
Jesus described more than one situation where lovers and adversaries confront each other. One is revealed in a disturbing prophetic proclamation that we don’t like to think about. He warned that the days would come when a person’s enemies would be those in their closest relationships and in their own household. He said:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. (Matthew 10:34–36 NKJV)
We’re all aware that enemies exist. We know that somewhere in the world there are people who would consider it the highlight of their day to harm or even kill us, simply because they hate something they think we represent. They would put us in their crosshairs, but they don’t know our name, and we don’t know theirs. They’re out there, but we don’t think much about them and certainly don’t live in fear of them because we’ve never met and don’t even follow each other online. But if the enemy is somebody we know, it’s different.
It’s Easier from a Distance ~
We all claim to love people we’ve never met, too. Folks yell and shout about how much they love some icon they’ve never been in the same room with. They proclaim their adoration for some people because of what they ostensibly support or what they appear to represent. We may or may not know their names, and they wouldn’t know ours. Neither generalized love nor distant opposition requires much serious attention or active engagement from us. But things change when they’re up close and personal, and especially if they’re thrown together and Jesus did that, too.
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. (Luke 6:27–31 NKJV)
The living God took on human flesh and threw the greatest love the universe has ever known into the heart of the realm run by His mortal enemy. What a profoundly unnatural and naturally unreasonable challenge He brought. Lovers don’t put themselves at risk by blessing those who hate them, and enemies don’t harm those they love. So how do we learn to obey this command that is so oppositional to everything about us? It seems that at least one of the keys to seeing how it’s done is to consider what it looks like from a personal vantage point.
Lesson One ~
If we’re going to realize what loving our enemies is all about, Lesson One is to stop looking at the equation as though we’re the lover, and the prospective recipient is some repulsive dude who personifies all we find disgusting. The truth is that when we came in contact with the living God, we weren’t seen as lovers, we were the enemy. Paul made that clear more than once.
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled. (Colossians 1:21 NKJV)
And James adds this sobering reminder:
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)
When we start to think the world’s standards look pretty appealing, it’s time to take a “down and dirty” look at God’s description of what we looked like before Jesus loved us enough to take all that on Himself. Here’s the kind of enemy He was challenged to love…
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28–32 NKJV)
Reaching Past the Obvious ~
You could say with absolute honesty and authority that when Jesus came into this sin-cursed earth, He was not just sleeping with the enemy, He was healing them, feeding them, exposing the lies that ensnared them and giving them eternal truth. He reached past what His enemies looked and sounded like and embraced what they could be. His enemies hated Him and would have killed Him if they could, but the Lover had another plan for His enemies. He gave His life to redeem theirs.
I spent years of my life as one of His enemies and I know how He treated me. It seems totally reasonable that He’d send me to do the same kind of thing for someone else. We may – or may – not be sleeping with the enemy, but they’re all around us, and we’ve all been shown how to love them like Jesus. Now it’s time to go and do it.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Lovers and enemies living together, what a profound contradiction. These are two incredibly powerful concepts with diametrically opposed objectives thrown together in the same space. Who would have ever conceived of such a thing? Maybe you already know the answer?” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “To realize what loving our enemies is all about, Lesson One is to stop looking at the equation as though we’re the lover and the prospective recipient is some repulsive dude. When we came in contact with the living God, we weren’t lovers, we were the enemy.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The living God took on human flesh & threw the greatest love the universe has ever known into the heart of the realm run by His mortal enemy. How profound! Lovers don’t put themselves at risk by blessing those who hate them, and enemies don’t harm those they love.” @GallaghersPen @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When the world’s standards begin to look pretty appealing, it’s time to take a “down & dirty” look at God’s description of how we looked before Jesus loved us enough to take all that on Himself. Look at the kind of enemy He was challenged to love: Romans 1:28–32″ @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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The words of Matthew 7:1 were overwhelming this morning, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” While so much of today’s world is in direct confrontation with God’s Word, as it seems this world has not only turning its back on God, but has kicked His shins, thrown mud on His face, and stormed off, it seems somehow “natural” as a supposed Christian to view this world as our enemy. It isn’t! Is it sick, perverted, wrong, deadly, dangerous, unholy, immoral, and a seemingly endless litany of other wrongs? Absolutely! But our enemy? How, when there is still a part of us that is a part of it?
The mere fact that some would consider this world to be the enemy of Christians is proof that “we are them.” For someone to be considered an enemy, we must make a judgment (i.e., a decision) that they are. If we claim to believe ALL of God’s Word as truth, then were are not to judge others, for we cannot be a righteous judge. Why? Because as much as we might want to fool ourselves into believing it, we are not righteous. Am I perhaps a bit more righteous than “Joe Over There” who is dealing drugs, exploiting others, stealing, robbing, raping, and encouraging abortions? I sure hope so, and more I hope the world see that because if they see no difference between me and old Joe over there, then I’m probably no different (read set apart) at all, am I? Still, as much as I may want to clothe myself in righteousness, I am not the righteous One who is qualified to judge the world. That judgment will come, but it will not be my job to judge on that day but to be a witness to that judgment.
In my life, I grew up in my early years in an atmosphere or alcoholism, abuse, racism, and many other evil and vile -isms that shaped my worldview. I made many judgments about those who were different from me and those who exhibited some of those same traits as those I had grown to despise. One example was racism. From my early childhood worldview, it was very easy to view those different from me as lazy, shiftless, conniving, flawed, stupid, criminal, etc. People different from me were my “enemy.” It was when I was adopted into a family that tried their best to live in accordance with God’s true law that I learned that love for our fellow man was color-blind. As my worldview changed, I found myself growing closer to some who were vastly “different” from me, because I came to understand how we weren’t that different after all. Some became “family” to me, others even closer than family.
I look back now, and I think the lesson God was teaching me is that His Son never came to divide, but to unite under His Father’s banner, all who would believe. And, as I’ve learned from my study of the Bible, ALL means ALL. So, if on this earth, Christ did not judge, and He is, was, and will always be, more righteous than I can be, then how can I? Don’t get me wrong here, one day He will judge, and He will mete out His judgment on those who have denied Him. Yet He alone is just. My job is not to be His prosecutor as the Murdaugh trial had (rightly or wrongly), but to be His ambassador in this time, in this world, to show those who do not yet have a right, saving relationship with God through Christ Jesus, the benefits that come from accepting that freely offered gift. Let us not judge, but invite. And the best way to invite someone to anything is respectfully, welcoming, and showing a true desire to have them join with us. Let’s make others want to join. We can’t do that when we’re looking down our noses at them. To show love, we have to be love, don’t we my friend? As you so aptly pointed out, if we’ll just pause from being our judgmental selves long enough to consider how much of an enemy we were to God before our salvation, then we’ll have a new appreciation for the fact that He did not pass final judgment upon us then, and we should let His grace compel us to help others avoid that coming judgment. Amen sir. That’ll preach right there!
OK, Brother–You just brought us into a church service a day early. When you said “That’ll preach,” you had already proved that. What a great exposition you offered on that whole judgment issue that seems to be such a confusing principle for so many. I grow up with a lot of the same kinds of things you mentioned early on, but I did discover my share of them later. The folks in my world were more prone to point out those who looked different, talked different, and acted different than we did. They were used as illustrations of what they didn’t want me to be like. They were quick to identify some people as, “lazy, shiftless, conniving, flawed, stupid, criminal, etc.” and I was not to demonstrate those kinds of qualities. But many of them were already at work on the inside. Like so many, I sought to look acceptable on the outside, but I was no friend of God on the inside and I found ways to indulge my sinful impulses and hide the evidence as much as possible.
I love the reminder that Jesus didn’t come to highlight our status as an enemy even though the adversaries of God despised Him and wanted to kill Him. Instead, as you pointed out, He came to make us one. Even though He brought love and hope and healing to so many, most saw Him as a threat to their natural inclinations and wanted Him removed from their presence and from the earth. The natural aversion that enemies have for each other didn’t work in His case. Their rejection of Him didn’t prompt retaliation or a corresponding condemnation on His part. His mission was to give them the truth about life as God ordained it and to make a way for them to be free them from the condemnation that their sins had placed on them.
I have to admit that I’m not good at loving enemies, J.D. I’m better at issuing all kinds of righteous judgments about them. I hate how the devil and his evil system seduces people into doing unthinkably awful things to one another. But my hatred of all that won’t save any of them. What I’m praying for is the grace to love what Jesus can do for them more than I hate what they’re doing. This is challenging stuff for me, my friend, and I’m deeply grateful for the insights you share in this realm. God bless you for taking the time to serve up another plate of spiritual nourishment for us this morning and may you and the Cross-Dubya family have a Saturday full of everything that God intended “shalom” to represent.