Who were His enemies? A Sunday School answer would be “the Romans” or “the religious leaders of His day.” But, the Bible brings the answer much closer to home. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . For [if] while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son . . .” (Romans 5: 8, 10). That’s right. We are the sinners. We were His enemies.
God reconciled us to Himself through Christ. (See: Resolving Conflict, Part 1: The Best Place to Start) There was an epic conflict between God and His undeserving people, but He accomplished a peace with us that is lasting and complete. Christ served on this earth by giving food to the hungry, sight to the blind, healing to the sick, breath to the dead, hope to the hopeless, and truth to the deceived. But, His greatest act of humility and service was toward His enemies by granting them life through the sacrifice of His own. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Jesus served us. He taught us by example how to serve others with complete humility. He also gave clear commands regarding how we are to serve our enemies. In conflict, there is great temptation to be angry, resentful, self-absorbed, bitter, and unkind. Yet, in the midst of this ugliness, Jesus calls us to something radical. It is not something that is promoted or understood by this world. It is “other-worldly:”
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6: 27, 35-36)
Before we go any further, think of the person with whom you have a conflict. You may consider the person a nuisance, an enemy, or something in between. But, who is it? A neighbor? friend? employer? employee? co-worker? student? teacher? in-law? child? spouse? Will you commit to obediently serve him or her as Christ has commanded? Will you be an imitator of your Heavenly Father?
TURNING CONFLICT INTO AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE
LOVE and DO GOOD
To love and to do good to your enemy means to show kindness, favor, and goodwill in order to benefit that person. This requires a choice on your part; it is not necessarily motivated by good “feelings” toward the other person. Thoughtfully consider how you can speak and act toward the other person in such a way that displays kindness, goodness, and care. Then, put your choices into action–even if it is extremely difficult. As you trust and depend on Him, God will give you the grace and power to follow Christ’s example. “This will be a witness to others of the power and presence of God in your life” (Sande, The Young Peacemaker, 93).
BLESS and PRAY
In this context, to bless and pray for your enemy probably involves invoking “God’s blessing upon them by praying that they may be turned from their ways through God’s intervention in their lives” (Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Pray for your enemy’s spiritual and physical needs. Ask the Father to help you to serve that person with grace and godliness. Praying like this is a “very powerful response to conflict. It’s good for those who cause you pain, and it’s good for you. . . You can pray that God will bless them, work in their hearts, and help them do what is right. You can also ask him to help you love them, do good to them, and bless them” (Sande, 93).
And so we return to the first statement of this post. “It is simple, and yet incredibly profound: The God of Glory, Creator and Sustainer of all, humbled Himself to serve . . . His enemies.” As His people, we are to do the same: love and do good; bless and pray. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master” (Matthew 10:24). Your Master served His enemies. Will you?
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