Enemy: a person who engages in antagonistic activity against another.
Antagonist: something which counteracts the effect of something else; one who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another.
There are a whole lot of antagonists in our lives, aren't there? There is tons of stuff which vies for our time and attention, often acting as an antagonist against something else which really would be well-served with both our attention and time. The antagonist "competes" for something - time, attention, finances, emotional investment, etc. The key to managing the antagonists is to recognize their effect. In other words, when the antagonist is "engaged", the result of the antagonist is to take our attention AWAY - to get us focused in the opposite direction. We have various medications in healthcare which act to "potentiate" the effect of another medication. We also have medications which will act as an "antagonist" - counteracting the effects of the one medication such as when we bind potassium by giving insulin, or stop the ability of narcotics to bind to your cell's receptors in order to regain your ability to be conscious and breathing on your own. We also have a whole lot of antagonists and potentiating "actions" in our daily lives, don't we? One thing helps another to have a greater "effect", while another takes away from the "effect" all together.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (Romans 12:14-21 MSG)
Truthfully, if we bless our enemies, we are not acting as an "enemy", but as an antagonist. We are counteracting the effect of the evil they intend in our lives with the goodness of God which we give back. It may not totally stop them in their tracks and cause them to no longer do evil, but let me tell you, it does give them cause to pause! Paul is giving us a whole "laundry list" of items which all impact relationship here.
* Bless your enemies - don't curse them under your breath. Okay, ever try this? My immediate response to someone who acts in "opposition" to me is to want to strike out, not give them back a blessing! Instead of striking out, Paul says bless them - bestow good of some kind on them. If you are like me, you might have to think really hard on this one - because bestowing good when you are only receiving bad is hard stuff. Yet, there is a greater blessing in this for us than there is for them! In us bestowing good when we are given only evil, we are "rewarded" with benefits which are physical (such as not expending tremendous emotional energy being angry), spiritual (such as learning what pleases God's heart most), and mental (such as not having to muddle through the mess of rehashed failures).
* Get along with each other - make friends with nobodies - get along with everybody. Tough words, huh? Ever TRY to get along with your enemy? It is not so easy, is it? Why? It is simply because they have set themselves to be our antagonist - they are designing their actions to oppose ours. Look at the key words Paul puts with these three commands. Don't be stuck up. Don't be the great somebody. Don't insist on getting even. So, Paul says if we focus on our action, we will be acting as "antagonists" to our enemy! Keeping a right perspective of our own importance helps us not to judge ourselves as better than our enemy. Remembering we don't need to be the center of attention allows others to rise to the occasion. Being willing to let an offense go instead of seeking retaliation really just pours water on the fire of our enemy. We are indeed being the antagonist when we begin to respond this way.
* Surprise your enemy with goodness. This is really what an antagonist does, isn't it? The antagonist "surprises" the one intent on destruction by putting something in the way of the influence of the destructive intent. In my example of medications, the narcotic's intent is to shut down acute mental function, dull pain receptors, and lower the threshold of the body to respond. The antagonistic effect of the medication which "binds" the narcotic and keeps it from having its intended effect renders the narcotic "ineffective" - it cannot do what it was "designed" to do. It still exists in the system of the one who took it, but its effect is limited by the work of the antagonist. Now, bring this back to our passage. When we "surprise our enemy with goodness", it is like we "render ineffective" the intentions of the enemy. We limit their influence on us and others by the "antagonistic" work of goodness!
Just some thoughts today on not letting evil get the best of us. As we learn how to counteract the effect of evil - not allowing it to have its destructive influence - we will develop some pretty awesome "relationship skills" which will help us be the "antagonist" of evil in this world. Just sayin!