Dealing with our enemies

I saw a Facebook meme the other day…it might have been one of you who posted it, but there are so many of those things it is impossible to keep track. It said, People hate you for one of three reasons.  They hate themselves, they want to be you, or they see you as a threat.

There is actually a 4th, and most people don’t want to hear it…Some people hate you because you are a jerk in some way. We don’t want to admit it, but there are times when we convince ourselves the problem is completely on that person’s side…they are jealous, they see me as a threat…whatever…and we refuse to believe that we might just have some issues we need to address.

I saw someone else’s “motto” on their Facebook page…it said, “I’m a pretty nice person. So, if I’m mean to you that should cause you to ask why!”

However we get there…there is just about no way in the world to get through life without someone disliking us. Especially if you lead something or do something revolutionary or different from the norm that pushes the status quo.

Trivia Story

If the reason people dislike you is that you are jerk…our faith requires us to do some soul searching, ask ourselves some hard questions, and work with God on some character transformation.

But what happens when people just don’t like us…or we have done everything right; we have done everything God wants us to do…and someone doesn’t like us.

Now for some of you…that thought threatens to end your world. The thought that someone might not like you is almost devastating for some people. But like it or not it happens.

We live in a world where enemies, whether real or imagined, are used to play on our emotion and herd us into arena filled with fear and dominated with a message of self-preservation.

The message that the Russians were coming, held us in the Cold War for years and years.

The message that at any moment terrorist will attack or that you will be killed by masked intruders or that you life is somehow constantly endangered…turns every “unknown” person into an enemy.

You name the people group or race, and there is someone trying to make them into your enemy.

Everywhere we look… enemies abound.

We have been talking about David and looking at some of the key events in his life as He became or was King over Israel, someone God said was “a man after my own heart.”  A man who exhibited extraordinary faith and trust in God, but was very human. He got a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong.

Last week we looked at David’s battle against a Goliath, and the major military victory he handed to King Saul…but almost immediately trouble began, as it always does, when someone dares to outshine a self-serving, narcissistic leader.

It seemed everyone loved David…Saul made him a high military leader, and everyone, including the other military leaders rejoiced…Here was a young man who trusted God, led with simplicity, knew who he was, and led by example…Whatever David was asked to do he did it successfully.

1 Samuel 18:5 says,

Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well.

Saul hated him for it.

Saul became jealous of David.

It is human to feel threatened. To fear losing your position when someone better comes along.

Jealousy makes us feel threatened. It causes us to do and say things are hurtful not only to ourselves and others, but ultimately to the Church and God’s Kingdom…

And Saul was growing more and more jealous of David. I mean listen to what the people, Saul’s followers, were saying,

1 Samuel 18:6-7

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang:

“Saul has slain his thousands,

and David his tens of thousands.”

You are the King returning from battle. You might have fought, but you also had military leaders and warriors that did more fighting than you…that’s how it was supposed to work. You lead and do what you do best…and that doesn’t always mean you fight. Because the worst thing that could happen was for the other army to kill your King. It was demoralizing to you and swung momentum into your enemy’s hands.

But as King…you were the one who was supposed to get credit. Right. You led. You told everyone what to do. You were the King. It was your name that should be lifted up and recognized for bravery…even if it wasn’t exactly true.

And here the crowd was lifting up David, and this caused

Saul to fear David.

This young, upstart warrior…could replace him. Saul was suddenly faced, as every leader was, that someone might be better at leading the Kingdom and the people than he was…and this young leader might start thinking of taking over.  And Saul became afraid of losing everything. His privilege. His status. His wealth and respect.

All Saul had to do was look around…because Everyone loved David!

The people loved David.

They were singing songs of praise about David’s accomplishments. They loved that he was a powerful warrior and had rescued them not only from Goliath, but from continued attacks by the Philistines. He was young and handsome and followed God in a way they hadn’t see before.

Not only did the people loved David, but

Saul’s family loved David.

Saul’s son Jonathan loved David.

1 Samuel 18:1 says

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.

Later Saul’s daughter Michal falls in love with him and ends up marrying him.

Can you imagine how infuriating that must be? Saul begins to hate David, but everyone else around him LOVES David.

And it wasn’t just the Israelites, the Army leaders and warriors, and Saul’s own family.

God loved David.

1 Samuel 18:12

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul.

So now, Saul knew that God too loved David. The Spirit of God had departed from Saul…and David was now God’s chosen ruler of the people of Israel…but for Saul…the fight wasn’t over.

His fear and jealousy drove him to the attempted murder of David.

1 Samuel 18:10-12

10 The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand 11 and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.

…so again in 1 Samuel 19 he tries to pin him to the wall with a spear and when that doesn’t work he sends men to his house to capture and kill him.

Seven times from here to the end of 1 Samuel Saul attempts to take David’s life; each time failing. So if Saul couldn’t killl him, he tried something else..

Saul put him in a position to fail…

1 Samuel 18:25 says,

Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.

If he couldn’t kill David…he could either have someone else kill him by way of battle or, at the least, David would be seen as a failure and people would start to doubt him. So he gave him this impossible, and rather grotesque task…and yet David succeeded.

So Saul had one final option…

He would distract David.

1 Samuel 18:20-21

20 Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 21 “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.”

If he can’t kill him, get him killed, or embarrass him…he would distract him, and nothing would distract a brave, young, handsome warrior like a beautiful woman in love…and not just in physical ways…David would be distracted by the same thing that happens to all of us as we become adults. The more responsibility we have, the more stuff we own, the more risk-avoiding we become. Why? Because I’m now responsible for more than me. I am responsible for a family.

Incidentally, as a side note…these are the same three things Satan will use against us…he will try to destroy us…he will try to put us in a position to fail…he will try to distract us…

Both Sides of this Coin

I’m sure you and I have been on both sides of this coin…we have been the Saul who felt jealous of the credit another person was getting over us…we have been envious of the love and attention someone has received that we felt we deserved…we have been afraid of losing our position or being usurped by someone else…maybe even someone who can do what we do better.

But we have also been a David…we have had people, who for no reason we can think of, have had it out for us…we have had enemies.

I watched one church rip itself apart because of one woman’s fear and jealousy. She was the elected Sunday School Superintendent, a new lady began attending the church. She was younger. She was a newer Christian and excited about her faith and serving…so she started helping in the Sunday School area. It became clear to many that she was far better at doing the job. People responded well to her, and she worked hard to make Sunday School as good as it could be for those attending.

The more established leader was not happy. When elections came around the next year, and the younger woman decided to allow her name to run…the older woman started a smear campaign. The younger woman was too young. Her skirts were too short. Her kids were too wild…the older woman started building support and won…at the cost of pushing the other woman and her family out of the church because of the hurtful words that were said.

You and I will be faced with the challenge of dealing with people we would consider an enemy. We will do this either in our personal lives as we have those around us who will be a threat or will undercut us or simply have it out for us…but we will also face it on a larger scale as we, like most Americans, will deal with various ethnic and racial groups that would be describe as or made into our enemies…and those who want to be part of the Kingdom of God are called to a different way of acting toward anyone that would be considered an enemy.

David gives us a good example in how he responds to Saul…

Throughout the rest of 1 Samuel, Saul begins pursuing David around the countryside trying to capture and kill him. One day, while chasing David, we are told that Saul goes into a cave to relieve himself…what he doesn’t know is that David and his men are hiding a bit farther back in the cave.

1 Samuel 24:4

The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said[b] to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

But even this one act of aggression sent David reeling…

1 Samuel 24:5-7

5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

For David, Saul was the anointed King of Israel, and until God removed him, he would not touch Saul.

This “man after God’s own heart” recognized that in Saul, whether or not he was currently faithful to God, it was not on him to handle things.

This idea carries over into a good bit of teaching in the New Testament. Jesus, the Disciples, Paul, and every member of the Early Church would face the difficulty of dealing with enemies.

And they recognized that how you deal with your “enemies” says more about you and your relationship with God than it says about them and their evil intent for your life…they explained to the believers in the early church that being part of the Kingdom of God calls us to a radical approach to dealing with our enemies…

I want to take a few minutes to read to you Jesus’ teaching, Peter’s teaching, and Paul’s teaching on how you and I should respond to those who would not simply say bad things about us, but would actually come to take our lives…

Luke 6:27-36

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

1 Peter 3:8-9

8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Romans 12:17-21

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Everything we read in these passages runs directly contrary to the way most of us REALLY want to handle our enemies.

We don’t want to hear things like love them, do good for them, pray for them, offer them reconciliation; allow our wonderfully merciful God to take care of them…I am constantly challenged by what we are called to do…

Especially in a world of terrorists, rioters, crime, abusers, the list just keeps going…

And yet, we follow a Savior who was willing to die on a cross at the hands of his enemies in order to save the very people who were hanging him on the cross. And this Gospel he calls us to live is not easy. It is impossible to live out under our own strength…so we must continually submit ourselves to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

But you know…there are many, many, many who claim the name of Christ, and refuse to treat their enemies in this way. The teaching is too hard, and they will find every way around…they will go back to the Old Testament and explain away the violence there and use it to defend their response to their enemies. They will try to manipulate passages from the New Testament where Jesus and others refers to using a sword or reference battle…the problem is that all of those must be interpreted in and through Jesus…and as hard as I have tried to understand any way around these passages, I have not been able to find them.

We are called, even at the cost of our own lives, to treat everyone with love, respect, grace, mercy, forgiveness…and that is difficult in so many different ways.

I don’t have easy words or answers here. I grew up in an area where you fought to survive so you always wanted to have the bigger, better weapon. We live in a country that feels the same way. We have people who have done some horrific things to us or our family members. I don’t have an easy answer other than the reality that if Jesus said we can do treat our enemies this way…then He must be able to work and transform us in such a way that we can actually become people who love them, pray for them, and do good for them.

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