Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: How We Treat Enemies

Have you read the story of the crucifixion lately? I would urge you to do so. There are so many things in that story that we need to be reminded of on a daily basis: the sacrifice Jesus made, the horror of the cross, the love that poured from His lips. While listening to the account being taught to some who'd never studied it before, I was amazed at how rich the REST of the story is, too.

Rewind with me back to the Garden of Gethsemane. You can read the account in Matt. 26. Starting in verse 36, we're taken to that solemn place with Jesus. After he has prayed to His Father no less than three times, the mob comes to take Him from the garden.

Pause here.

Of all the times in your life that you can think of where you've been confronted or mistreated by a bully/enemy, were any of those times as bad as this? Didn't think so.

Now, there are two named enemies in Jesus' story: Judas and Malchus (John 18:10). Judas is the one who was supposedly Jesus' follower (and more than that-friend), who then told those who would arrest Jesus where they could find him. He is the betrayer. Malchus is a servant of the high priest, and we cannot know if he hated Jesus as his master did or not, but regardless he was there---standing with the other team.

Flash forward to today: how does the world tell us we should treat our enemies? Stand up to them, mock them, act out with violence, talk bad about them? The list goes on and on. How do Christians often respond to those who are rude to them or talk bad about them or hurt them? Talk bad about them, act out in revenge, hold a grudge? That list, unfortunately, goes on and on too. Let's go back to the garden and see how Jesus responded.

First, Jesus responds to Judas. When he approaches Jesus to give him away to the others, Jesus says (in no doubt a heartbreaking tone), "Friend, why have you come?"


Even though Judas was in the process of betraying Him and sending Him to His death, Jesus has only kind words to speak. Jesus had also known, from the beginning, that Judas would betray Him, yet that didn't change the Lord's attitude and demeanor toward Judas. He was a great friend to him, despite the fact that he would betray Him. Today, we don't always know when someone is going to betray our trust or take sides with the enemy, but we do know how we should respond to them: with kindness, gentleness, and a spirit of friendship.

Second, we see how Jesus interacts with Malchus. Simon Peter jumps to the aid of Jesus and, in a fit of rage/protection/devotion, Peter cuts off Malchus's ear. What would we say? He deserved it? Would we even laugh? That's not how Jesus responds. Jesus heals Malchus and rebukes Peter. Jesus shows compassion on someone who is against Him. He doesn't let His friends harm him, either. Now think about yourself again: when someone comes at you, how do you treat them? Are you compassionate? Do you let your friends bash them and talk bad about them? I feel I'm more guilty with this one than the other. How easy it is not to show compassion to those who show no compassion to us. That's not what Jesus did, though, and we are to model our lives and our reactions and our behavior after Him.

Find the Judas's and Malchus's in your world, and treat them with kindness and compassion. Ask God to forgive them, like Jesus asked God to forgive all of us while He was on the cross. Pray for your enemies, don't curse them (Rom. 12:14). In all that you do, act like Jesus. It will never be the way the world wants you to act, but since this world is not our home, it is the way we must always choose to act.

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