Oct 19, 2012

Getting Angry at our Enemies

Proverbs 25:21–22

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you."

Hatred, envy, vindictiveness, and anger arise easily in fallen hearts, so we are greatly blessed that more people are not murderers. In fact, most people do not act out their rage to the ultimate degree in the taking of human life, which is evidence of God's restraining grace. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:6–7 for instance, speaks of the Lord's restraint of the "mystery of lawlessness." Our Creator also restrains the murderous urges of humanity through human governments that punish evil (Rom. 13:1–7). Finally, C.S. Lewis affirmed biblical truth when he spoke in Mere Christianity of the "Law of Nature"—"the curious idea [all human beings possess] that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it." Fallen creatures suppress God's moral law, but He has inscribed it on the conscience of every man, woman, and child (Rom. 1:18–32). For whatever reason, the prohibition of murder is a statute that seems harder for people to deny, suppress, or ignore than others.

Yesterday, we spoke of the forgiveness and kindness that the sixth commandment encourages. Question and answer 107 of the Heidelberg Catechism also note that in forbidding murder, God commands us "to do good even to our enemies." This teaching is found throughout Scripture, including today's passage. Jesus Himself tells us that we must love our enemies, for in so doing we are "sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil" (Luke 6:35). As is frequently the case in the New Testament, our Savior grounds our ethics in our need to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). Our Creator is kind to His enemies as they walk the earth, sending them rain so that they may have food, sustaining their lives, and allowing them to have many earthly pleasures. Moreover, we should never forget that God loved us to the furthest degree possible when we were His enemies, sending His only begotten Son to atone for the sins of His people (Rom. 5:6–11).

In commanding us to love our enemies, Christ is not giving us license to allow people to walk all over us. Even God gets to the point with the reprobate that He withdraws His love because of their impenitence (Matt. 10:28). Nevertheless, our first inclination should be to do good to those who hate us.

Coram Deo

When Scripture speaks of doing good to our enemies, it is focusing on the common, everyday interactions that we have with other people. This teaching is less applicable in cases of physical violence or wars between nations, although even seeking justice is a form of love and kindness in that it may keep an offender from sinning even further. In any case, we should love those who hate us, pray for them, and seek their well-being.

For Further Study