Treatment of Enemies (Part Two)

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 10 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How to Treat Different Types of Church members)

In an institution as complex in its program as the fundamental New Testament church (which is composed of frail humanity) it is almost impossible for one to escape the distasteful position of having enemies. As we mingle within this little society within a society called the New Testament church, most if not all of us will accrue people who are our enemies. Though the sermon that you have just read covers much of the information and method of dealing with such people, it is perhaps wise that we enlarge at least somewhat upon it.

Romans 12:14, "Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not."

Romans 12:17-21, "Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."

Matthew 5:4347, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 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; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?"

I Corinthians 6:7, "Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"

From these and other passages we arrive at the following conclusions:

1. We are to love those that hate us. What a perfect example of this our Saviour left for us! He has been scourged by the cat-o'nine-tails. His body has been beaten beyond recognition. He has been wrongly tried. He has been nailed to a cross. He has been the object of jeers, profanity, hatred, malice and unbelievable persecution and suffering. He opens His mouth from the cross and what are His first words? "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." What a tremendous example of loving those who hated Him! The Scriptures plainly teach us that we are to be like Him.

I John 4:17, "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world."

John 14:12, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father."

Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."

John 20:21, "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you."

In order to be like Him, we must grow to the place in our Christian lives where we love those that hate us. In other words, though we cannot avoid having enemies, we are to be no man's enemy In other words, though people are offended toward us, we are to be offended toward no one. The Psalmist tells us, "Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them." (Psalm 119:165)

2. We are not to retaliate. Romans 12:14, 17-21. Vengeance is the Lord's. He will care for that which is necessary. However, the spiritual Christian will not want vengeance to be given to his enemy unless the vengeance that God executes is for the enemy's good. In other words, we should not want the enemy to suffer because he has made us to suffer, unless that suffering can help him. At any rate, we are to leave that vengeance in the hands of God.

3. We are to bless those that curse us and do good to those who do evil to us. This admonishes us to actively do good to those who are our enemies. In other words, deeds and acts of kindness should be showered upon those who hate us. It may be that such deeds and acts must be done anonymously, but nevertheless, they should be done. We should never fight malice with malice. We should not use the methods of the demons to fight the demons. Our weapons are spiritual ones. We are to fight hatred with love, selfishness with unselfishness, cursing with blessing, greed with generosity, unkindness with kindness, criticism with prayer, and bad with good.

This author is far from perfect, neither has he yet apprehended, but I can honestly say that for 24 years I have not had bitterness in my heart toward any human being, and for those 24 years I have loved my enemies. The lesson I learned was a hard one and a costly one. When I was pastoring in Garland, Texas, I was a young man, and the growth of the church had perhaps exceeded my ability to handle the situation properly.

There was a man in the church with whom I shared some unkind words. Some were spoken from me to him and some from him to me. I allowed a bad spirit toward him to enter into my heart and mind. He left the church and, to be quite frank, we would not speak to each other. Not long after that, I was called to pastor the First Baptist Church of Hammond. For about three years it seemed that the church could not get moving. Of course, I was not willing to admit the fact that at least pail of the cause and blame should be laid at my feet because of my feelings toward the aforementioned man. One morning we took our little girl, Linda, who at the time was four years old, to the Mercy Hospital in Dyer, Indiana, for what we thought would be a routine tonsillectomy The tonsillectomy was performed, and I was sitting beside Linda in a hospital room. The nurse assured me everything was all right. I was reading the newspaper and suddenly I looked at Linda and saw her little head was in a pool of blood. We did not know that she was a free bleeder, but obviously she was. I rushed out of the room into the corridor of the hospital calling for the nurse and the doctor. The nurse came quickly, saw her condition, picked her little body up and ran down the hospital corridor, carrying Linda to emergency surgery. As the nurse disappeared through the double doors on which a sign had been placed which said, "No Admittance," I retreated down the hallway of the hospital to find an empty room where I could pray. I finally saw a room that was dark in which there were no patients. I went to a bedside and knelt and began to pray for God to spare the life of our little girl. The last words I heard the nurse say as she carried Linda down the hallway were, "Call the doctor! She is dying! She is bleeding to death! Call the doctor! Call Dr. Friedman!" With these words ringing in my mind, I knelt to pray for Linda. Then I said to God, "Before I pray, I want to be sure that You hear me and that You answer me, and I want you to let me know if there is anything between You and me that would hinder my prayers being answered." Suddenly I saw the face of that man in Texas against whom I had ill will. I realized that there was something in my heart that must be removed before Linda could be spared. I rushed out in the hallway, grabbed a telephone to call the man. The operator told me that he had moved. I called a friend of his to find his address and phone number. For a long time in that hallway I frantically tried to find the man so I could apologize, but my efforts failed. I returned to the room to pray. Though I had not accomplished my mission of apologizing, the Lord had removed bitterness from my heart, and I was sure that He would hear me and answer me. Praise His name, Linda did live, and she is now a wife and mother of two children.

I continued my search for the man. I could not find him. Months later I was preaching in a small church in east Texas. As I walked onto the platform, I looked and to my delight and surprise, that man and his wife were sitting a few seats from me in front of the pulpit. My heart began to beat faster, and I said to God, "If You will let me live through this sermon, I promise You I'll go back and apologize to that man and tell him I love him as soon as the sermon is over." I finished the sermon and during the closing prayer I started back to the man's seat, when suddenly I bumped into somebody I looked up and it was this deacon. We met in the aisle, and while the closing prayer was still being prayed I looked up and said two words. Now these are the hardest words I say. For many years I have been preaching; in fact, I have preached over 45,000 sermons, and yet there is one little sermon of two words that is the hardest for me to preach. Those two words are the words I knew I had to say to this man, and so with the same awkwardness of a little child making his first speech in school, I looked up through tears and said, "I'm sorry!"

He looked at me and said, "Pastor, I'm sorry! It was my fault that we had the trouble!"

I said, "No, it was my fault."

He said, "No, Pastor, you were tired and weary and I shouldn't have provoked you to say what you said."

"But," I said, "sir, I should not have said what I said and I am sorry!"

He said, "Well, it was my fault," and I said, "No, it was my fault." He said, "It was my fault," and I said, "No, it was my fault." And so we argued for awhile over whose fault it was, as the Lord in Heaven smiled and saw two of His children making it right with each other. That night I went back to my hotel room, took off my shoes and got up on the bed and made a trampoline out of the bed and jumped up and down most of the night and sang, "Nothing between my soul and the Saviour, naught of this world's delusive dreams; I have renounced all sinful pleasure, Jesus is mine, there's nothing between!"

From that moment until this moment I have had many enemies, but I have never been an enemy I am commanded by God to bless those that curse me, to pray for those that despitefully use me, to do good to those who do evil to me, to love those who hate me.

4. I am not to attack, nor am I to defend. A good motto for any Christian would be, "No attack; no defense." By that I mean, I am not to attack my enemies. I am not to return evil for evil. Then, when attacked by my enemies, I make no defense. Now I will defend my Saviour, and I will defend others, but I will not defend myself. I fight His battles; He fights my battles.

5. I am not to go to court with a Christian brother or sister.  I Corinthians 6:7, "Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"

Psalm 119:165, "Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them."

Our churches and schools are plagued by people who are easily offended. Each of us should constantly be on guard against this deadly enemy of the church, the school, the Christian and the Saviour.

6. Stay in the Word of God. Psalm 119:165 teaches us that there is a way that we can rise above being offended. Notice the words, "Nothing shall offend them." Read the Word, memorize the Word, love the Word, meditate upon the Word, live in the Word, and victory can be had over this adversary.

7. Do not look at criticism as being personal. Years ago I learned a little exercise that has helped me tremendously I decided to look upon my critics as broken rather than as bad. When my watch breaks, I do not fight back and throw it against the wall. When my radio breaks, I do not become angry at it. I decided that when people criticize me, it is not because they are bad; it is because there is a broken part. This does not mean that they should be discarded any more than the radio should be discarded. They need to be fixed. Then I also realize that I too sometimes am broken.

8. Do not love because of the object. Love should be caused by the condition of the heart of the lover, not the attributes of the loved. God does not love us because of what we are; He loves us because of what He is. May He help us to be like Him in this respect.

Being human, it may be somewhat difficult for us to love the unlovely as much as we love the lovely, and the degree of our love may be determined by the degree of loveliness; however, the presence of our love should not be so determined.

9. Do not want things or position. Most of our hurt feelings are caused by disappointments in not receiving things, acclaim or position that we want or crave. The less one wants the less he will be offended. The more one wants for others, the less he will be offended. The only real want or craving a Christian should have toward others is an intense desire to help others. Remember, Christ has no alternative but to love the unlovely, the unloving and often the unloved.

10. If your critic is your inferior, allow that he has not been privileged to know what you know. Give him some leeway.
I am a very criticized man, probably one of the most criticized preachers of this generation. I try to allow that a person can dislike me and still not be bad. We are so constructed that a person can be mean to the rest of the world and good to us and we think he is good, or he can be good to the rest of the world and mean to us and we think he is bad. There are many people who have not had the teachings that you and I have had. They do not even know the truths that we are now sharing. No one criticizes a baby because he cannot ride a bicycle or a child because he doesn't know trigonometry Why should we have our feelings hurt by those who have not been privileged to learn not to be critical?

11. Do not have a lot of unplanned fellowship. Do not just sit around and talk. Soon it will lead to talking about people. Someone has said that great minds talk about ideas, good minds talk about things, and weak minds talk about people. When planning to get together with other Christians, plan the activities. Do not sit idly and talk idly. There is a grave temptation to talk too much about people. Maybe this talk is not bad, but once we idly talk, we are tempted to talk about people, and once we start talking about people, we are tempted to say bad things about them.

12. Do not retaliate to those who try to offend you, who are unkind to you or who criticize you.

Memorize Psalm 119:165. Believe it. Practice it and let nothing offend you.

Would you rather for two people to hurt or one? Of course, the answer is that all of us would rather one person hurt than two.

Would it matter who these two people were? Why initially we would answer the question, "No, it doesn't matter who they are. I would rather for only one person to hurt than two."

The next question comes, what if one of those two people is you? Then, will it matter? In other words, would you rather only one to hurt or two to hurt if you are the one that is hurt, or would you rather someone else hurt because you hurt?

Now ask yourself this next question, would it matter how the other person felt about you? In other words, if you are hurting because another person has hurt you and that other person hates you, would you still rather one person to hurt than two? When our answer to this question can become "Yes," then we are approaching what Christianity is all about and the type of life that God's people are supposed to live. Probably the Ph.D. of Christianity is earned when a person can treat his enemies as Jesus treated His. Perhaps the most difficult and last step of Christian maturity is when the Christian learns to love those who hate him, pray for those who despitefully use him, bless those who curse him and do good to those who do evil to him.

Someone very dear to me who had been my friend for years launched a brief but fierce attack my way. I could not believe he did it. When I realized he did, I could not believe he meant to do me harm. Through tears I wrote these words:

Let's Both Forgive!
You did not mean to loose the bow
That launched the arrow toward my breast;
Nor did you plan to shake the limb
That so disturbed my downy nest.

'Twas not your will to hurl the stones
That hailed upon me like a storm;
'Twas not your quill that penned the darts
That railed upon my inner form.

You did not make the venom that
Your tongue so quickly shot my way;
Nor did you mean to loosen all
The fiery snakes I fled today.

You did not weigh the giant stone
Hewn by the words you spoke to me.
'Twould not be there had you but known
The load with which I came to thee.

I know, for I have hurled some stones,
I vainly tried to have returned.
My quiver's empty far too oft;
My fiery darts too much have burned.

I own some venom and a bow
Which oft unite in deadly flight
To far exceed in damage done
The arrow's wound and serpent's bite.

I know the empty victor's guilt
When kneeling o'er my fallen prey.
I've held the sword when blood was spilt,
While joys of winning fled away.

So may I love you when you hate,
And may I bless you when you curse.
I cannot now retaliate,
For yesterday 'twas in reverse.

May I return an answer soft
To turn away thy hasty wrath;
For I have tasted far too oft
The bitter herb my friend now hath.

Six critical letters came in one day's mail, five of the letters criticizing someone else! I find myself having a difficult time believing that God's people can be so critical of each other. Spontaneously I shouted while alone in my study, "Could we not love each other?" I then used the following words to plead with fellow Christians to love our brothers and sisters in Christ:

Could We Not Love Each Other?
Could we not love each other?
The place prepared for me
Is near the one for thee.
Hence, neighbors we will be.
Come! Be my brother.

Could we not love each other?
The Hand that gives thee bread
Is the One that keeps me fed.
Let harsh words be unsaid.
You are my brother.

Could we not love each other?
The load your heart doth bear
Is one that we could share.
We both dwell 'neath His care,
Beloved brother.

Could we not love each other?
I have stood in your place,
And you my path oft traced,
So let us offer grace
Befitting brothers.

Could we not love each other?
The One Who died for you
Is my dear Saviour too.
Is it too much to do
To love our brother?

Could we not love each other?
That selfsame throne of grace
Where thou dost seek His face
Is my abiding place
Beside you, brother.

Could we not love each other?

The letter was filled with hatred, insults and satire. It was from one who admitted hatred for me. I called him on the telephone to seek conciliation. This attempt simply turned written words to spoken ones. All efforts for a Christian understanding failed and he hung up the phone. I wrote the following words and mailed them to him.

You Are My Enemy
You are my enemy
So I must love you more
Than those who love me most,
And, who, upon me pour
The best of friendship's wine.
I must not taste the sour grape
From vindication's vine.

You are my enemy
'Twill not be always so;
For I will drown thy hate
Within the loving flow
Of calm, forgiving seas;
And use thy saber's sharpest blows
To knock me to my knees.

You are my enemy
I must take care to bless
Thee through thy cursings oft!
And hold within my breast
That restless, unkind word;
For I must keep in hidden sheath
Retaliation's sword.

You are my enemy
I cannot quench the scorn
That you have rushed my way;
Yet something hath been born,
Begotten from above;
No shield you hold can deftly block
The arrows of my love.

You are my enemy
And so I more must pray
For God to do thee good,
And take my spite away;
And warm the biting chill
That cometh to the both of us
Should I but do thee ill.

One day, upon hearing of an attack on me and my ministry, I was tempted to retaliate and to steal from the Lord His work of vengeance. I began to think, however, of the times when I had been critical and unkind. Hence, I could not retaliate. Rather than give vengeance, I must offer compassion, love, and understanding. The following stanzas came to my mind:

A Familiar Stone
I once retrieved an angry stone,
Still warm from resting in thine hand,
To boomerang it back to thee,
As vengeful reprimand.

I took retaliatory aim
To even up the score;
Then saw the rock
I grimly held,
Was one I'd seen before.

Oh, my! It had my fingerprint!
Beloved, could it be . . .
That this same stone that came my way,
Was one I hurled at thee?

Hence, I'll not aim its point thy way,
Nor hurl it back to thee;
I'll bury it and ask our God
To forgive both thee and me.



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