How to deal with one’s enemies? There is a lot of controversy these days regarding how we as a nation of freedom loving and tolerating people should deal with nations and people who apparently want to harm us in some ways. We have labeled such nations as “evil” and such individuals as “terrorists” and generally as our “enemies”. But such nationals and individuals may also see us in the same ways, and individuals may apply such labels to other individuals in their communities, neighborhoods, and even in their families. Major wars have been fought with thousands of lives being sacrificed or otherwise damaged and trillions of dollars have been spent in accord with the decisions that are made regarding this challenging matter. And we are currently engaged in several very expensive and difficult wars in our efforts to deal with our nation’s “enemies”.
How to Deal with one’s enemies in different ways?
Providing safety in one’s homeland, community, neighborhood, business, school, place of worship, or family is a legitimate objective for people in responsible positions of care, but they each have to face some of the basic questions regarding how to deal with one’s enemies. And I would suggest that violent opposition is usually not the best immediate or even the most beneficial long-range course of action in dealing with enemies. That is why most of our political leaders engage in various efforts of negotiation to avoid violence if safe relationships can be established without it. Talking with one’s “enemies” is always better than killing each other.
This matter has been a challenging issue throughout history, and a couple of notable persons who had some very intense personal and group experiences in dealing with their “enemies” have given us some wise instructions regarding how to deal with one’s enemies. Jesus, who lived and ministered in the land of Palestine that was under the occupied control of the foreign power of the Roman Empire and who faced many personal enemies over 2000 years ago, had this to say about the matter: “you have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-41 NIV)
And he went on in his public remarks to a crowd of his fellow countrymen with these words: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,….” (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV) And a couple of years later he was executed on a cross under the authority of Rome following a public riotous appeal for his death by his personal enemies.
Paul, a contemporary Jewish convert of Jesus and a leader among his followers who was also a Roman citizen, had this to say about such “governing authorities”: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1-4 NIV). In his ministry throughout the Roman Empire, Paul frequently was subjected to Roman authorities. He was arrested several times by them, put into prisons, and even flogged under the orders of the city magistrates in Phillippi (Acts 16:16-40) But Paul had a great deal of respect for Roman law and authority, even though years later the Roman emperor ordered him to be beheaded in the Roman coliseum during a time of great Christian persecution.
So how should one deal with one’s “enemies”? Don’t resist or otherwise confront them. Love them and pray for them. If they are in positions of authority over you, submit to their authority, and seek to do what is “right” in the situation even if their attitudes and treatment of you is “wrong” and unjust. There is a big difference between the Christian martyr who submits to the violence of someone who opposes him or her and the Muslim martyr who blows himself or herself up in an effort to kill others in an act of violence against those whom he or she opposes and anyone else in the vicinity of the explosion irregardless of their involvement in the conflict.
There is not an easy solution to the challenge of dealing with one’s enemies, but it could be very good to consider various options. Let’s talk about this.