This is the first post in a 3-part series.
We all have them.
Even though we as Christians are striving (or should be striving) to live peaceably with those around us, the fact of the matter is that there are people who are going to oppose us and hate us for who we are and what we believe.
Or… they may simply hate because they don’t know how to love.
In my opinion, the worst enemy is one who is supposed to be on your team, but does everything they can to crush you. (Read Psalm 55)
It’s an age-old problem. Someone you love, a “friend” or a partner attacks you. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s blatant, but it’s always painful.
For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.
Psalm 55:12-14 ESV
I would rather face ISIS, Al Qaeda or the Nazis rather than deal with a poisonous “friend.”
We call them “Haters.”
You know who I’m talking about. They are people who are so full of bitterness it oozes from every pore. They can’t utter a single word without spewing poison. These are people who betray confidence, undermine friends, gossip, and stab you in the back. Some will smile outwardly, feigning kindness and camaraderie while inwardly brewing their venom.
My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.
~ Psalm 55:20-21 ESV
The other day as I was out walking, I was thinking about some people who have caused (and are continuing to cause) a lot of pain for my spouse as well as a couple of people who had recently attacked me. It was coming at us all at once! I felt bitter and angry. I wanted so much to have them right in front of my face, each in turn, so I could tell them exactly what I thought of them. I thought of David and his plea for God to consume and destroy his enemies. I wanted God to exact justice on these poisonous people who were causing so much anger, pain and distress.
As all these sour notes swirled in my head, a louder persistent thought rose above the din:
“Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse.”
I literally stopped walking.
How many times had I read that verse? I wasn’t sure where I had read it (It’s Romans 12:14 by the way), but it rang in my head as firmly and clearly as a bell. Here I was, fuming, craving, and longing for my enemies to be put to shame. I wanted justice instead of mercy. I had been praying that God would turn their hearts to him, but if they would not, then to bring them to justice.
Yet the words came through so clearly. “Bless and do not curse.”
Hang on… I had to pray blessings on these insidious, poisonous people?
I resumed my walk, and the words of Jesus came to mind:
“Love your enemies.”
“Pray for those who persecute you.”
These people had cursed me. They had cursed my spouse. They spread lies and bitterness. We were not their sole targets, they were causing strife everywhere. They were attacking good people and demoralizing entire groups.
Yet, as I considered Jesus’ words, I realized something paramount: Praying for my enemies isn’t optional, it’s required.
Jesus gave a command. We have to obey. No ifs, ands or buts.
Jesus forgave the very men who pounded the nails through his flesh into that cross.
Jesus forgave Peter for leaving him behind and denying that he even knew him.
Jesus forgave… me.
He asks no more of me than what He did Himself.
Our first weapon in overcoming the haters is blessing those who curse us. We are told to pray for our enemies and not to the purpose of asking God for vengeance.
Forgive not in words, but also in deeds. Bless and do not curse.
What ought to separate the Christian from the world above all else is our ability to forgive our enemies and bless them. If we do not do this, we are no different from the world. Our enemies will never see Christ in us if we hold on to our anger.
If God permits, we will look at our second method of conquering the haters tomorrow.