Do You Love Your Enemies or Want God to Break Them?
“When should we, as Christians, consider unbelievers enemies?” "Didn't Jesus disregard Gentiles who desired healing from Him?" Also, “Is it biblical to pray for their justice to come or to desire their repentance and salvation?” My answer will cover these questions as I was recently asked about this.
1. First, it is important to note that Jesus’ specific mission was to the Jews first. John 1:11 tells us that “he came to His own and they did not receive Him.“ This is why He responded to the woman with a demon-possessed daughter the way He did. However, His response to her was not that He rejected her because she was a Gentile, but that He would illicit faith from her. He wanted to draw out of her the faith that would be appropriate for her request. Jesus did this often in His ministry. Another example of this is where Jesus “spitting on his [the blind man’s} eyes and laying hands on him asked him, ’Do you see anything?’ (Mark 8:23). The man saw people walking around like trees. His vision was only partially restored at that point, but this was to bring out faith, which Jesus constantly looked for. Then in the next verse Jesus laid hands on his eyes and he saw. Jesus also did something similar in John 9:11. Jesus’ ministry begins to close when the Gentiles begin to seek Him (John 12:20, 23). He is told that the “Greeks” (12:20) are seeking Him and only a short while later does Jesus conclude that His time to be glorified in death is coming soon (12:23). Only after His death will He “draw all men [Jew and Gentile] unto Himself” (12:32 NASB). Jesus did interact with Gentiles during His ministry but it seems the fullness of this was to occur after He had died (see Acts 1:6-8).
2. In essence, we should pray for and love our enemies, no matter who they are. This is where I believe most of our response to wrongdoing should rest. Romans 12:17-21 clearly teaches this as does Matthew 5:43-38. The point of Romans 12 is that we can overcome evil “by good” (v. 21) and that God is the only one who can render each man as he deserves. If justice were left up to us we would go over what was necessary and just. Matthew 5 calls us blessed when men persecute us (5:10). And Romans again calls us to bless those who “persecute you” (12:14 NASB). This means to speak well of and wish well those who are pursuing you! Interesting to this truth is the story of Dirk Willems. He was pursued by the authorities for believing that Christians should be baptized as adults.
"Dirk was caught, tried and convicted as an Anabaptist in those later years of harsh Spanish rule under the Duke of Alva in The Netherlands. He escaped from a residential palace turned into a prison by letting himself out of a window with a rope made of knotted rags, dropping onto the ice that covered the castle moat.
Seeing him escape, a palace guard pursued him as he fled. Dirk crossed the thin ice of a pond, the "Hondegat," safely. His own weight had been reduced by short prison rations, but the heavier pursuer broke through. Hearing the guard's cries for help, Dirk turned back and rescued him. The less-than-grateful guard then seized Dirk and led him back to captivity. This time the authorities threw him into a more secure prison, a small, heavily barred room at the top of a very tall church tower, above the bell, where he was probably locked into the wooden leg stocks that remain in place today. Soon he was led out to be burned to death."*
Dirk's story help us see the need to love our enemies and to sacrifice for the gospel. Emotions and feelings of hurt are real and God has given them to us. He knows we are experiencing them. He will use them to bless us with fruit and understanding for other in that pain. We should commit them to God and trust that justice will come, even if it is when Jesus comes to earth (2 Thess 1:6-10). Forgiveness toward those who hurt us will be a daily choice we make. There will be days when the emotions will rise up and we will feel the injustice in our hearts. That is when we need to make another choice to forgive that person all bless them. Keep reminding yourself of specific Scripture and wait for the emotions to subside. Ask God to bless the person with repentance. Also, recognize that if they are unsaved, that they are really ignorant to the serious nature of their sin. They also do not have the Holy Spirit to tell them they did wrong and need to make it right. They are lost and in need of God’s power to make them alive.
3. In the Bible, righteous anger usually occurs when God and His name are being seriously maligned or when the innocent are suffering because justice being severely maligned. There is also some semblance of righteous anger toward false teachers and those who lead people to eternal ruin. Jesus drove out people in righteous anger who had perverted the purpose of God’s house (the temple) and David was angered in Psalm 58:5 and said “break their teeth, O God.” He said this to judges (58:1) who judged falsely, who weighed out the violence of their hands (v. 2), who “speak lies from birth,” and aim their arrows at the innocent (v. 7). Paul spoke very strongly to false teachers who were misleading followers of Christ (Galatians 5:12). The best channel for righteous anger is the throne room of your Father, God, which you have free access to at all times (Rom 8:15-17).
* 1. John S. Oyer and Robert Kreider, Mirror of the Martyrs [Good Books, 1990], p. 36-37. http://www.goshen.edu/mqr/Dirk_Willems.html Accessed 10 March 2009.