Facing an adversary is never easy. Has this happened recently to you? Jesus said we are to pray for our enemies. In saying this, he understood we will all have enemies at some time. Maybe it is the neighborhood bully. Maybe it’s a co-worker or a boss who has it in for you. Maybe you’ve been in the military and faced a true life-threatening situation. When we’re facing an adversary, a whole host of emotions comes our way: anger, fear, anxiety, frustration. We also know from the gospels that Jesus had real enemies: the Roman government, that would ultimately put him to death; King Herod and the religious leaders who disapproved of his teachings and economic challenges to the temple. Jesus knew the reality of high pressure adversaries who wanted him out of the way.
Dealing with such difficult people has immense challenges for us. God knows our troubles here and works hard in these moments of life. For instance, Jesus said we should begin with prayer. When we pray for someone we’re opening our own hearts to the wisdom and insight God can bring. This is helpful because usually our own wisdom has reached its limits in the conflict. When we offer our prayers we’re helping to further God’s will in a tense situation where we need faith to be available and working. Several places in the Bible talk about responding to an adversary in ways that do not add fuel to the fires of animosity but a counterintuitive move that surprises our opponents. We’ll talk about such moves this Sunday. We want to let our adversaries know that in the strength of our faith, we are choosing a different kind of response and we are looking to our faith to guide us first, not our emotions. I like how Paul says in Romans 12, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” It may not be possible with all persons, but we trust how God teaches and leads is in ways that aim to build peace and not further conflict.