Grace with Enemies

graceIf you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. (Matthew 5:46-47)

Ponder It.

  • How do you define “enemy”?
  • What enemies have you had throughout your life?
  • Who would God say your enemies are?

Receive It. God gives us sufficient grace to extend to enemies. Enemies is an interested term. Sometimes we struggle to identify who our enemies are. We can’t imagine anyone really being an enemy; after all, doesn’t God call us to love everyone and hate no one, and if we slap on the label of enemy, isn’t that a non-Christian thing to do? The quick answer? No. Enemies are real, and they are biblical. We have enemies. God himself has enemies. Refusing to acknowledge we have enemies is like sticking our heads in the sand. Even when we identify our enemies, we can make critical errors in judgment. We often identify our enemies as someone who has done something to us that we don’t like. Getting our label of enemy is a burden the person brought upon herself because of what she did. It was her choice…or so we say as we blame. But blaming someone doesn’t make someone an enemy. Assuming someone’s motives doesn’t make someone an enemy. None of us have ever seen a motive, so we’re wise not to spend much time trying to mind-read what another’s motives are. Plus, enemies really aren’t for us to define. We’re not the center of reality and the crux of all justice. If we base the definition of enemy on ourselves, we’ll err. It’s God who determines the reality of our enemies. If we are for God, our enemies are his enemies. Our enemies are those who are against him, and we can’t actually tell who that is all the time. We can make assumptions, but he has a better perspective. He sees people’s motives and knows their hearts. He knows the outcome. And he knows how he wants us to respond. When we let God determine our enemies, we also need to follow his lead in our responses. He knows the boundaries we need and the commitments he wants. He knows when we’re to stand up, sit down, speak up, shut up, and pray. Trust him.

Live It. Pray for an enemy today. Don’t be content with a quick obligatory prayer. As you wholeheartedly pray for an enemy, God will begin to work in and through you in surprising ways.

Coping with Criticism

miami_package_feelthehealdetox“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” (Aristotle)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” (Winston Churchill)

If you’re not encountering criticism, you’re not building relationships, because relationships should involve value-driven discussions and daily living, which will cause friction among individuals. Of course, the friction should be handled in God-honoring ways. We should respect one another even when we disagree, but how often do we think respecting each other is refusing to disagree? How God-honoring are we when we’re on the receiving end of the criticism? Do we take it personally and have difficulty as we think someone no longer likes us, or do we callously respond as if we don’t care because we’re going to be who we are regardless of what anyone says or thinks of us?

What do you learn from the following verses?

Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin, too. (Galatians 6:1)

In everything you say and do, remember that you will be judged by the law that makes people free. So you must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment. (James 2:12-13)

I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other. (John 13:34-35)

Accept into your group someone who is weak in faith, and do not argue about opinions. (Romans 14:1)

God certainly gave his children guidelines for criticizing others. We must be loving, gentle, and merciful. We are not excused from criticism; we are simply directed to criticize within God’s standards with his provision. We are to accept and respond to criticism in the same way—within God’s standards—even when people criticizing us are not adhering to the same standards. Just because another Christ-follower is bending God’s rules does not make it okay for us to bend God’s rules, thus, fighting fire with fire.

We cope with criticism with the same standards by which we’re to give criticism.

  • Be loving—by God’s standards.
  • Be gentle—by God’s standards.
  • Be merciful—by God’s standards.
  • Be forgiving—by God’s standards.

Responding to criticism by God’s standards is not the same as hiding feelings. It’s setting aside feelings for truth. God gave us feelings to enhance experiences not to distort the truth of a situation. Let God reveal the truth of a situation. You don’t need to know the person’s motives. You don’t need to know how the person will respond. All you need to know is…God. God is truth, and when you invite and trust him to guide, your motives will become God-driven and your responses will become God-guided. You will cope with criticism with God and for God. He is at the center of your life and your relationships, including criticism. Let him lead from the center.

Lesson from Nature: When Smooth Is Just Our Imaginations

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

It’s easy to get tripped up, even among the beauty of life. Even when we’re savoring where we are, we need to pay attention to the details. We can get so caught up in our own journey that we forget to consider the trouble spots.

It’s like that for Christians sometimes. We stand firmly on the assurance of God’s truth, yet our familiarity creates a bubble around us that causes us to forget how to relate and reach out to others. We imagine things are going smoothly and are shocked when we trip over others’ questions or confrontation. Or perhaps we’re not shocked. We actually expect it, but we don’t really invite it. We don’t engage with others; we get defensive and give pat answers that satisfy us but isolate others.

You don’t need to have all the answers. You need to follow the One who does. Jesus wasn’t hesitant to answer questions. He didn’t answer with arrogance. He challenged with respect and taught with love. He was bold. He went where God led, not just where He was comfortable.

If we keep focusing on what we’re against instead of who we’re for, we’ll isolate ourselves from both.

 “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, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:43-48)