If you were to be asked if you had any enemies, how would you respond? Are there people in your life that you really don’t like to the extent to call them your enemy? Or maybe you are their enemy due to their dislike of you. As a believer in Christ, one of the most valuable things I’ve learned from the Bible is how to deal with people who seem determined to be your enemy. It comes from the pen of the Apostle Paul and goes like this: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). So, while you may have some folks in your life that don’t care for you, as far as your part in the relationship goes, attempt to live in peace with them.
But what about spiritual enemies?
Did you know that before God, all believers were once enemies without enmity? While God had no hatred for us, our sinful nature which led to sinful behavior, made Him our enemy, even if we had no enmity toward Him. The relationship between humanity and God was adversarial, and required reconciliation, lest all of humanity be forever condemned. According to the Bible, this is precisely why God sent Jesus to earth. With apostolic authority, Paul addressed this truth by writing: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).
So, whether we believe it or not – whether we like it or not – every person has stood before God, guilty of sin, and in need of forgiveness. Someone had to pay the penalty for our sins. Once again, the Scriptures identify this someone as Jesus.
The gospel of John records these words of Jesus as part of His conversation with a Jewish leader: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Our sin caused us to be estranged from God and as such, we stood condemned before Him. And let’s be clear, this was our doing – not His.
But this does not reflect God’s desire for our relationship. God wants reconciliation. We see this desire in many passages in the Bible. In describing our responsibility to pray for all people, Timothy said, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Did you see God’s desire? He “desires all men to be saved.” And here’s another one. As he explains the promise of God to send Jesus back, Peter’s second letter asserts, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Once again, the Lord is “not willing than any perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
The Bible is quite clear. If we’ve not been reconciled to God through His Son, Jesus Christ, we (by our choice) are the enemy of God. That is both tragic, and unnecessary because God has gone to extraordinary lengths to change our relationship with Him through the work of Christ.
But, if you are among the children of God...you still have a spiritual enemy, and his name is Satan. And this enemy has a passionate hatred of you and everything you stand for in Christ. In his first letter, Peter not only affirms this reality, but also gives counsel and comfort to Christ-followers in dealing with our Satan, our enemy: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9 niv). As a Christ-follower, the Devil is out to ruin your testimony and your life. When he attacks (and he will), take a page from the ministry of Jesus, who during His face-off with Satan countered every satanic temptation with the Word of God by use of the phrase: “It is written” (see Matthew 4:1-11).
You just may be able to go through your entire life without a human enemy, but you will always have an ethereal enemy. You are either the enemy of God or of Satan. Choose your enemy wisely.
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.