I always prided myself on my lack of enemies. I thought it wise to make friends with everyone, to alienate nobody, and to always avoid making an enemy. This comes from a lifetime of modeling this method, fearing others (a bullying story for another day), and a misreading of scripture. While I still think it wise not to unnecessarily turn anyone against me, I’ve come to learn that there are more important things than keeping the peace.
In both our Psalms and Acts readings today, we find Godly men speaking about their enemies. Some seek to discourage with whispers of, “terror on every side” while others are the terror themselves, seeking to kill and destroy. Paul’s enemies had plotted his death and made a pact not to eat until the deed was done. The Psalmists seem to be less specific but no less deadly. But how can such Godly men, following God’s ways, make such dire enemies? Isn’t Jesus a teacher of “loving one another”?
I have learned that standing up for Jesus will alienate some people, even good people, even church people. In fact, Jesus promised us this again and again. He modeled the life of an outlaw (assuming we’re talking about the Jewish law) and promised that we would be persecuted, killed even. We will make enemies if we stand for Jesus. An empty “enemies list” is a sign of a people-pleaser, not a God follower.
Unfortunately, many take these teachings as permission to purposely antagonize or ignore opposition. This promise of persecution is not license to shun correction, saying, “See, Jesus said you’d disagree with me” even though many use it for just that purpose. Persecution will come, but many times it is not for Godly reasons but because we have an abrasive personality or controlling attitude toward others.
Do not avoid persecution at the cost of faithfulness, but do not welcome it at the cost of humble correction either.