Dealing with our enemies

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Most of us have made a few (or many) enemies in our lifetime. Oh, it’s not the kind of enemy, hopefully, who wants to take your life but, rather, they dislike you and are opposed to you. Perhaps, they even try to undermine you and destroy your credibility. Perhaps they even want to see you fired or diminished in some way.

Though most people wouldn’t think so, people in my profession make quite a few enemies over time. The question is not, “How can I avoid making enemies?” Truthfully, one can do everything right and with integrity and still tick people off. The real question is, “How do I deal with my enemies?” Well, forgiveness is one weapon in the arsenal (see last week’s column).

But there is another weapon to be used in an encounter with enemies: “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:28 KJV). “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:34 KJV). I am going to focus on one word, that being “bless.”

The definition of “bless,” the Greek word being “eulogeo,” according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, is “to praise, give thanks to, speak well of, extol … to impart benefits to the one being blessed.” Not normally how we think of dealing with enemies.

Many years ago, a man, a fellow minister in fact, for whatever reason decided to set himself against me. Since he never personally spoke to me about what troubled him I still do not know for certain why he felt it was necessary. He spoke to members of my congregation, denigrated me to other ministers, and even compiled a dossier of sorts.

After a civil but tense encounter one evening, I was on the way home and felt that I needed to forgive him. Since forgiveness is a choice, I did. But that wasn’t the end of it. As I prayed the prayer for forgiveness, I felt that God wanted something more from me. What I concluded is that He wanted me to bless this man. I wasn’t happy about that at all.

Then, a scripture came to mind: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7 KJV). I sensed in that moment that I was to pray for him and ask God to grant him everything I wanted for my own family, my church, and my life.

Frankly, I was angry at that little revelation. This guy, as I saw it, was out to do me harm and yet I was to pray for him like I was praying for myself? Yes, that was it, exactly.

So, I began to offer prayers of blessing over this man, his family, and his ministry. I will admit that for the first several days (and, yes, the kicker was that I was to do this every single day!) I ”blessed” him through gritted teeth. But, regardless of how I was feeling, I was, at least obedient.

Over the next 18 months, I prayed for his children as though they were my own. I prayed for his ministry to grow, for him to have peace, for his marriage to be great, that he would be prospered — I prayed for him as though I were praying for myself. After awhile, I prayed with teeth ungritted.

In due time, something remarkable began to occur. My own children began to have good things happen, my church began to grow in spite of circumstances, and I was at peace with the world and with this man, my adversary. I was no longer angry with him even though, as far as I could tell, he continued to work against me. It no longer mattered. What was happening? As it turned out, I was sowing good seed. “… for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

The law of sowing and reaping is neutral. Whatever seed one puts in the ground, that’s what comes up. Bad seed begets a bad crop; good seed brings forth a good crop. Some people call it “karma,” some say that “what goes around, comes around.” The principle is the same: one gets what one gives.

Over the period of several months that I was praying blessings upon this brother, I was receiving them myself. It’s hard to stay angry when good things are happening. It actually became a joy to pray for him, one that I looked forward to every day.

Certainly, in this society, such a concept is foreign. We blast out enemies, we bring them to ruin, we retaliate, we seek and destroy … we don’t pray for them, much less pray for God to bless them! They don’t deserve it, we believe.

Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps they have done terrible things against us. Perhaps it’s been unrighteous and unfair. So, what do we do, wallow in self-pity and impotency? Or do we attack with extreme prejudice and return blow for blow using fang and claw?

Because, whatever we choose to do, we will reap what we sow. I wish I could tell you that this comes easily and naturally, but that would be untrue. At least it wasn’t easy for me. It’s difficult to ask God to bless someone who is seeking your ruin.

Yet, it is one of the most effective and powerful weapons we can deploy against someone who has made himself or herself our enemy. And who knows? Perhaps their hearts will be softened and they will cease to be against us. But, if not, it’s still worth the sowing of good seed for the harvest you will reap.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the pandemic, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]

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