When Our Enemies Suffer

Posted: September 6, 2014 in The Christian Standard
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Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.  For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them.” (Psalm 24:17-18)

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.  But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.  For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?  Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.  If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?  Even pagans do that.  But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:43-48)

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who hurt you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.  Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.  Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  If you love only those who love you, why should you get any credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!  And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.  Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. (Luke 6:27-36)

Never pay back evil with more evil.  Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.  Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God.  For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

How do we feel inside when someone who has hurt us, humiliated or disrespected us or our loved ones falls upon hard times, devastating times?

In the world, when people “get theirs” or when “karma shows up”, it is most often celebrated.

But in the Kingdom of Heaven, rejoicing at the troubles and suffering of another person displeases the Lord.

The whole world is a spiritual battlefield and our actions can impact the eternal lives of others.  When someone is being dealt with and they are mocked or their unfortunate situation is celebrated, their hearts will harden, their hatred will grow worse.  Where they may have otherwise turned to God and repented of their sins, they may instead be lost forever.  This is not a burden that any of us wants to bear, no matter what has been done to us.

So what’s the appropriate thing to do? 

The appropriate thing is to outwardly show grace, compassion.  Depending on the wrong committed, maybe the only appropriate thing we are capable of outwardly doing is to be silent, saying nothing.  But we are commanded to love our enemies and this “love” is a verb, a word of action; actively doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for them.

When God’s command to do this is obeyed, miracles happen.  Countless stories are told of the absolute worst among men and women being turned to God’s glory.  Persecutors, murderers, traffickers, wracked with guilt, show up at the doors of those they’ve hurt, asking about Christianity, asking for forgiveness.  If they are wicked and evil, they are lost, and as long as they draw breath, there is the opportunity for them to be found (Luke 15).  Once found, they turn their lives around with the help of Almighty God, crossing from darkness into light, and this is a glorious event, celebrated in heaven (Luke 15:7).

When we leave it God to serve up justice, to take revenge on our behalf, to pay back wrong-doing and we obey his command to do good to others, especially those who wrong us, we demonstrate that we fully understand the eternal stakes and are trustworthy soldiers in the service of God.

That said, it is a normal, very human reaction to feel vindicated; to experience the satisfaction of the knowledge of a wrong being righted, however our hearts tally up the score.

Whatever is going on inwardly, the safety-zone is prayer.  Prayer is the place where we are safe to be completely honest with God.  Prayer is where we say whatever our hearts are yearning to say, thanking Him for His justice, for vindicating us, that we have been able to witness it.  Tell it to the Lord alone, and then love your enemies.  In this way, while followers of other so-called gods wreak havoc across the world, seeking revenge and justice for themselves, the followers of Jesus Christ stand out as lights in the darkness.

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