How to Deal With Your Enemies

Jesus made it clear that in this life we would face opposition and perhaps, even persecution. As the world continues to polarize around divisive issues, we can expect to find others at odds with our belief in God’s word as final authority. So we should not be surprised if we find there are times we have to deal with those who are enemies.

The scriptures give us some clear guidelines to dealing with our enemies. These include:

1. Overcome evil with good.

This is so counter intuitive, it makes no sense, yet it really works. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us, “You have heard it said, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I say to you ‘love your enemy, bless those who curse you, do good to those that hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you.” For some people you may have an opportunity to speak a positive word of encouragement, for others you might be able to do a good deed for them and for others, the only thing you may be able to is pray for them.

In Romans 12:20,21 Paul tells us, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

2. Understand your real enemy is the devil.

You might be inclined to think that your enemy is your neighbor or your co-worker, but behind all opposition is the enemy of God and all He represents, Satan. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12 that we don’t fight against people but evil spirits. So, when confronted by an enemy do your fighting in the prayer closet. Remember, Jesus told us in Luke 10:19, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”  

3. Forgive and guard your heart against bitterness.

Ultimately the enemy is after your heart, the place where your faith and trust in God is generated. Satan ultimately wants to separate you from God and from others. His objective is to back you in a lonely corner somewhere and bombard your mind with tormenting thoughts. Proverbs tells us to guard our heart with all diligence for that is where the issues of life flow from.

Over and over again we read in the scriptures the importance of forgiving others. In Matthew 6 following the Lord’s Prayer Jesus instructs us, “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

Remember, that as you stand on the promises of God, they require obedience on your part.  If you are unforgiving and unloving toward your enemies; God’s promises will not be activated in your life. Likewise, if you live in worry and fear, this will choke out your faith, If you are gossiping and looking for a chance for revenge, you will not live in victory. The key is to stay in obedience, and let God deal with your enemies.

4. Leave revenge and judgement up to God. 

We all have a build in desire for justice which comes from the Holy Spirit within us. God is the God of justice, and He loves justice. It’s okay to want justice in the world, but if you try to enforce it yourself you will find yourself out of step with God. In Romans 12:19 Paul writes, “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord”.

Therefore it is always best to walk in mercy. The Bible tells us that “mercy triumphs over judgment.” By extending mercy you give up revenge and hand the judgment part to God.

Be careful that inwardly you don’t rejoice when they fall or if you see them suffering the consequences for their actions. It is tempting to secretly hold thoughts of revenge, but Proverbs 24:17 warns us, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.”

At the end of the day, loving our enemies means seeing them as human beings in need of the Father’s mercy and love.

5. Set your boundaries.

It is good to remember God expects you to love your enemy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be friends with them. It is a good to set boundaries with those who hate or despise you as it will help facilitate peace in the midst of it all. 

In their book on boundaries Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend write that boundaries are personal property lines that define who you are and who you are not, and they influence all areas of your life. Physical boundaries help you determine who may touch you and under what circumstances. Mental boundaries give you freedom to have your own thoughts and opinions. Emotional boundaries help you deal with your own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others. Spiritual boundaries help you distinguish God’s will from your own and give you renewed awe for your Creator.

Often the best option is to love your enemy and pray for them from a distance. We can pray for the repentance and salvation of our enemies, even while keeping wise boundaries in place. In the Bible we see Paul loved the Jews who persecuted him, and prayed for their salvation, yet when they tried to stone him to death, he kept his distance and fled from them.

Similarly the Good Samaritan helped a man who would have been considered the enemy in his culture.  Doing good to the helpless Jew indicated that the Samaritan loved his enemies. However, the Samaritan kept his boundaries and did not go looking for the robbers, knowing that they would have harmed him too. Helping a helpless person who has been your enemy is loving like Jesus.

It can be a sensitive matter to love those who oppose us, but by the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit you can walk in the love of God and deal with our enemies..