Enemies, haters, and trolls, often bring out the worst in us. I mean how often do we feel our blood pressure rising due to some antagonistic and spineless excuse for a human who spews out their comments over the web, while safely hiding behind their glass monitor? I used to get pretty upset at these kinds of people. After a while though, I began to thank God, not only for them, but also for the tangible and physically present enemies that I have in my life. I realized that an enemy can do for me what a friend cannot, which is to offer me a cross to practice my deeply held and often cheap theological views.
The cross is a highly misunderstood Christian icon. Modern evangelists and pastors have reduced the word to two categories. One, the thing that Jesus died upon for our sins, and second, the cross is chalked up as some hardship in our life, which could even be interpreted as doing the dishes. I have heard many people say things like, “Well, I have to go and bear my cross and do the laundry.” But does this really capture what it means to face off with an enemy within the context of the cross like Jesus did?
The cross is the sacrifice of that which is perfect. It is the necessary one giving up of his or her life for the unnecessary. It is God-like character to give up something great for something that is not only unlovely, but is also branded as an enemy. It would be no stretch of the truth to say that we were, and sometimes still are, in some areas of our lives, enemies of God. Yet the Lamb that was slain still bleeds from the altar of God, pouring the blood of Jesus upon the heads of the unworthy. This is lesson that my enemies have taught me, they have showed me my inability to die for them if need be.
I have found from experience that anytime you challenge someone’s personal pet theology that you will have very rapidly created an enemy. Sadly, many of our deeply held convictions are forged and based upon past experiences of pain and disappointment instead of futuristic possibilities that God has reserved for us. This happens because we have had an enemy, not a generic enemy, but one who has made it their personal mission to hurt and destroy our lives. Instead of interpreting their actions to be in our favor, many times we end up playing defense and these people forge our lives in a negative way even more than they did in the past.
All an enemy really wants to do is inflict pain. They want to unload their guilt, weakness, past, pain, blame, or conviction, upon someone other than themselves. They want you to be as miserable as they are. They want to hurt you as much as you, or someone else, has hurt them. They are looking for freedom. When I see my enemies in this way, I don’t see a rival anymore, I see someone who is in need of compassion. I see an opportunity to be like Jesus.
An enemy is a hidden blessing, a gift from God, and a master instructor who exposes our weaknesses and challenges us to practice our faith. I used to pray for my enemies because it was biblical. There wasn’t much love involved in the prayer, I assure you. There wasn’t much of anything really, it was like a blank space in prayer, a duty or an unfulfilling obligation. I was past the pain that my enemies had caused me, a pain that keeps most people locked in bitterness for the rest of their lives. But I wasn’t to the point where I saw my enemy as a valuable asset to my life, my growth, and my journey towards being like Jesus. Then something changed in me, maybe I lived long enough to see how I had changed and finally figured out why? I don’t know, but what I do know is that I realized how valuable having an enemy is.
Armies never know their true strength until they encounter their enemy in battle. The Romans perfected their armor by facing the spears and swords of their rivals. The United States went from a weak military presence to a roaring super power in a few years because of Hitler. Enemies make me a stronger warrior. They show me where I need to improve.
When I am left to my own opinions of myself, I find that all I do is defend my small and narrow existence. When I am able to look through my enemies eyes, I am able to see all my faults, you know, the ones that we pretend are not there. An enemy exposes my hypocrisy. Without this exposure, I remain exposed. I am a castle with a broken down wall that is able to be breached. There is no better way to become strong in my walk with Christ than to accept what is said of me, and then humbly seek to change what I am accused of. If I am not guilty in the eyes of God, then He certainly will not mind my approaching Him concerning my accusation. Not only does this free me up to not have to waste time defending myself, it makes me more like Jesus, and for this I can thank my enemy.
Jesus had to die. It was part of the plan. But, how does a God who is full of love and mercy come down here and make people mad enough to kill Him? If He is so loving it should be really hard to get mad at Him right? It was God’s enemies that brought about the moment of salvation we claim today. But without a people who are angry at this loving God, the plan cannot go forward. God needed an enemy to fulfill His plan and so do we. Just as there is a place for Jesus in every heart, there is also a place for Judas in every life. He did not have to go far to find one. All Jesus had to do to motivate people to an anger that was strong enough to kill over, was to question their personally held religious ideals. The people loved what they believed about God more than they loved God Himself, a curse that lays heavy over many modern day believers. I have made a lot of enemies over the years doing this. I promise it wasn’t intentional, I was just trying to help people, and so was God, and like Him I ended up on a cross of sorts.
Without the cross, we are nothing, we have no basis to connect us to God. But to have a cross we must have an enemy willing to crucify us. Jesus said, that we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. To do this we need someone angry enough to sling stones and carve crosses. I am not advocating finding ways to make people angry, but as life goes, there will be plenty of opportunities to bear crosses.
My enemies have taught me more than my friends and pastors ever could have. They gave me the opportunity to practice the gospel I say I believe. Many times I thought I was strong in an area until I was tested by someone bent on my destruction. I thought that I had my temper under the blood, until an enemy proved me wrong. These wonderful people, without knowing it, moved me farther from myself and closer to God. The forced me to challenge my own bitterness and unbelief. They exposed a “me” that I did not think existed. I decided I didn’t care about how I looked on the outside, it was the inside that I had to live with, even when my enemy was no longer around.
We are often stubborn people who will not believe that we have a problem unless we see it ourselves. Someone can tell us over and over again that we have a serious issue, but until we see that issue resonate from our own actions, we are unbelievers. We have to become addicts before we believe that we have a problem. Our addictions to pain, drugs, alcohol, bitterness, and negativity, have to destroy a part of our lives before they catch our attention. Enemies challenge our strengths and prove to us that we are not as strong as we thought we were, they also accuse us of being worse than we really are. But that matters little if I take my issues to God, He will clarify to me where I need to change.
I have no problems obeying Jesus, until it means that I have to agree with my adversary quickly, or love my enemy, or to turn the other cheek. Yeah, you know, all those scriptures that rarely ever make bumper sticker material. The scriptures we wish were not there, so we spiritualize them, or just plain ole justify them.
Enemies have an insatiable desire to make things about right and wrong, when God has already proven to us that it is about life and growth. When I refuse to see the value of my enemy, all I do is end up playing their game and trying to defend my sacred pride. This stunts my growth. When I see two people arguing about right and wrong, all I witness is the lack of the tenderness of Jesus and the fullness of human pride. In reality, it matters not about who was right or wrong because neither side is going to convert by losing an argument. I don’t know why we, people who claim to be so right and intellectual, haven’t learned this by now. When was the last time that you saw someone on a thread switch sides because they were made to look like an idiot by someone else?
Jesus won His enemies over by giving into them when He wasn’t guilty. He beat the devil by letting the devil beat Him. He suffered when He didn’t have to, and offered Himself to a people who never asked to have Him. Being like Jesus in the presence of my enemies strains the best parts of my nature to their limits. It is here that I find out what I am really made of. Without an enemy, my theology is only as powerful as my cheap confessions. Enemies need to see actions, they need to encounter Jesus incarnate within us. It was not until Paul encountered Jesus that He was truly changed; Paul wasn’t converted because someone opposed his theology. Up to this point he was an enemy to the church. Sometimes our greatest enemies could be our greatest assets. If we do not remove ourselves from being bitter about them, we could come to a point where we really don’t want them redeemed. To bring about the conversion of an enemy, it will not happen through pointless arguments trying to expose one another’s wrongs, it will happen when they encounter Jesus in us.
I love reading articles by people I highly disagree with, yet unlike most people, I do not seek to argue my way through endless threads with an “uh huh, uh uh” juvenile attitude. I simply take what I have read and seek to understand how the culture is evolving around me. If I find it is slightly biblical yet misses the true nature of Jesus, then I am free to better prepare myself to engage that culture in a way like Jesus would, by loving them, this does not mean agreeing with them about everything they have embraced, but it does allow me to highlight the person and minimize the opinion. Theologically these people and I would have a recipe for a nuclear argument, but I have learned that people are more important than their tightly held views and pains. Chances are good, if their theology is off, it is because of a past pain or heartache that they could not deal with any other way than to surround themselves with theological insulation. Love will tear through this insulation.
My enemies have taught me that the most important thing in this life is, to be and live like Jesus to them. This is why I think my enemies are valuable and they should be loved. If Jesus died for them, far be it from me not to be Jesus to them. If they do not accept me, then by default they only better me. They will only challenge my weak areas of flesh to be more like God. Either way, I win. Maybe this is the victorious Christian life I always heard about, yet rarely experienced?
So I welcome the trolls, the haters, and my accusers. To all the enemies,I have always wanted to say this, thank you, and I really do love you.
Thank God for enemies.