It is part of human nature to want to see some harm come to your enemy. After all, the very word "enemy" suggests someone who is your opponent - there is some type of antagonistic behavior that makes the two of you adversaries. To want good for your enemy just is counter-intuitive. They are out to harm you - so why should you be out to bless them? Our instruction today is to not revel in their fall, nor celebrate their collapse. Instead, we are to leave their "outcome" to God - something harder said than done!
Don’t laugh when your enemy falls; don’t crow over his collapse. God might see, and become very provoked, and then take pity on his plight. (Proverbs 24:17-18 MSG)
Enemies can be personal adversaries - such as someone bent on making your life miserable - all attacks aimed at you alone. They can also be public - such as public officials who don't represent the needs, wants, or beliefs of the public they are designed to serve. Either way, the instructions in scripture are quite clear - we need to be very, very careful in our dealings with our enemies. This isn't just because we could get hurt by their attacks, but because God's business is to take care of their wrong-doing - ours is to pray for them, bless them, and serve them as much as physically, emotionally, and spiritually possible.
When I look at the examples set in scripture, I see several worth mentioning:
- A woman caught in adultery had many accusers. Those who did the accusing sought to end her life - by stoning. She is at their mercy - and they have no intention of extending any! This is often the case when our own actions may have not been the best - our enemies capitalize on our failures and make them a point to take advantage of us whenever possible. As Jesus dealt with the crowd of anger filled individuals who were indignant toward this woman's wrong-doing, he did something we could learn from. Instead of pointing out that the woman needed mercy, he allowed her enemies to come to the conclusion they were not without faults in their own lives which he was well aware of, but would not make a public affair. In so doing, through his simple statement of "Let the one without sin among you cast the first stone", he silenced her enemies. You see, God has the "insight" into what is at the core of our enemy's behavior and he knows how to silence him! Best to leave it in his hands!
- A woman believing she'd never have a child of her own sought to ensure some offspring to ensure the continuation of the family line, allowing a slave woman to bring forth a son for her husband. Her name? Sarah. Her husband? Abraham. The outcome of this rash decision was a son born to Hagar, a servant woman. In time, Sarah did bear a child - in God's timing. In rather short order, the child grew and became the one apparent to receive the inheritance of his father. Animosity grew between Hagar and Sarah. Sarah regretted her decision to encourage Abraham to father a child with the servant; Hagar resented all the attention and favor shown to the child born out of Sarah and Abraham's union. This is one of those cases where our own actions actually create the enemy we deal with. We all have done something similar through choices we have made which we later regret. God's actions on our part are no different - he has a way of extending grace where it is most needed, but the consequences of our having gone our own way might still be there to "haunt" us for quite sometime. Rash, poorly planned decisions cost us, but God is in the business of restoring even what becomes our greatest nightmare to deal with. God may not have desired the results we reaped through our decisions, but he certainly has a way of restoring what we cannot "undo" on our own!
The point is - we are not to "deal with" our enemies - God is. We are not to relish their downfall - but remember them in prayer. We are not to return negative with negative - but to bless them. The only way we will ever do this is when we hold tightly to God's hands and allow him to walk us through it. He may not deal with our enemies as we "think" he should, but trust me - God always deals with them in a way which is right, just, and in just the right timing. We have to stand on that and trust he knows best - even when we think they are getting off "too light". Remember this: We will need mercy more times than we can count. When we behave poorly, do we want God being quick to extend mercy, or to bring swift judgment? Just askin!