In Paul’s extended teaching on election, Romans 9-11, Paul stops to lament that the Jews, his people by ethnicity, were blind to the finished work of Christ. In the midst of this, Paul writes, “As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake” (Rom. 11:28, emphasis mine).
In context, Paul says that the Jews had become the enemies of God for the sake of the gentiles—in other words, folks like me, and quite possibly you as well (though I don’t presume to know your ethnic background)—so that we might come to repentance. That we might also know the one true God and glorify Him.
On an infinitely smaller scale, I wonder sometimes if some of the men and women who I care about are enemies of God specifically so that I might learn humility and wisdom—that I might learn to be godly and repent of my sins of arrogance and pride?
Here’s what I mean:
Historically, I’ve not dealt with criticism well. I don’t like it, because I feel like it’s an attack on my character. This is perhaps because I’m secretly afraid that people will learn that I’m actually a bit of a nitwit. Perhaps.
Anyway, because of this, my natural reaction is to turn any criticism back at the critic, not unlike Homer when Marge developed a gambling problem.
But that’s not acceptable conduct for a Christian. It’s not acceptable for one who is called to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).
By definition, this command requires something I do not have on my own:
It takes an enormous amount of humility to not retaliate against an enemy (real or perceived). Because in order to do this, you have to set aside your ego, because (at least in my case) that’s the thing that gets hurt most frequently. It takes wisdom to know how to respond in a way that is reflective of God’s character to persecution (again, real or perceived).
And it takes both to realize when you’re simply a bit off your gourd—because, frankly, that happens to all of us once in a while.
At the end of the day, enemies of God, whether real or imagined, are a gift from God to us.
I hope that’s something I remember as I continue through the day.