Doing Good Unto Our Enemies

Jesus said it. 

He said it in Matthew 5:44. And He said it in slightly different language. 

He had already given us the command, “Love your enemies.” And therefore now He declares, “Do good to them that hate you.” 

We have enemies in that we have those who hate us. We have them because they hate us because of whowe are. We have them because of what we are. In either instance we must do them good, even though there is a sense in which we must hate them. Yes, the Word of God does teach that. Does not the psalmist speak by infallible inspiration in Psalm 26:5 when he states, “I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.” Do we not read in Psalm 31:6 “I have hated them that regard lying vanities; but I trust in the Lord?” In Psalm 139:21 the psalmist even dares to bring this matter before God’s face and asks, “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee?” And, indeed, we may ask here, Is it possible to love God and love those that hate Him? Is it possible to love those that hate God without hating God ourselves? And John tells us in I John 2:15 not to love the world. That he means men is evident from the addition “Neither the things of the world.” And surely we must not forgetGenesis 3:15

The seed of the woman mentioned in Genesis 3:15 is certainly in the ultimate sense Christ, Who according to Galatians 3:16 is The Seed of Abraham. And the seed of the serpent ultimately is the Antichrist. But we dare not limit the text so severely as to make Genesis 3:15 a prediction of nothing more than Christ’s personal victory over the devil and the beast out of the sea, that red dragon that has waited from the very beginning to try to kill the Christ. Viewed from its positive point of view Genesis 3:15 means that God will put love in the hearts of the seed of the woman; and for that reason the unregenerated, who are the seed, the spiritual children of the devil, will hate the regenerated children of God, the members of His elect Church. Here is the answer of grace to all the momentary “victory” of Satan! Look! and see Adam and Eve cowering under the trees of the garden. Behold the man made in God’s image to reflect His virtues of righteousness and holiness, of true knowledge and wisdom! See that spiritually perfect creature now a vicious rebel completely under the control of the evil spirit, who is Satan! What a tragedy, we would say. How pathetic Adam and Eve looked with fig-leaf aprons and cringing with fear under the trees. Where is the king and priest of God in that beautiful garden? Where is he around whom that whole earthly creation revolved and through whose mind and will and works every creature was to return to God in praise and thanksgiving and service? What shall we say to all these things? 

There is an answer of grace. There is a word of God that brings back hope and cheer and joy and peace. This hatred the devil has wrought. Here he has brought the king and priest of God’s earthly creation. His is the mastery over God’s royal priesthood. But, listen! God will speak! This is not the end of the story. Man cringes in fear. But the grace of God will give him another fear, one of reverence and awe before his Maker. This evil Satan has done; but God will overthrow all his works, for God will put His love back into the hearts of some, the seed of the woman, through Christ Whom the Church brings forth in the fullness of time. For this Seed of the woman will crush the head of the dragon and deliver His people fully from his power. They shall no longer love sin and the children of the devil in as far as they are enemies of the Living God, but they will have enmity in their hearts. They will love God and hate with a perfect hatred all those who are God’s enemies.That is what the psalmist said in Psalm 139:21 after asking the question of God, “Do I not hate them that hate Thee?” He declares, “I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” Are you one of those that hate God’s enemies or of those that love them? How could you ever heed the Word of God to fight the good fight of faith, if you love God’s enemies? 

We said a moment ago that we have enemies because of who we are and because of what we are. God’s enemies become our enemies because we are His children. Satan, the serpent and all his seed hates us because they see the life of Christ, the Seed of the woman, in us. When our covenant seed make confession of their faith, when they begin to take their places with us in the battle of faith and declare before the whole world that they belong to their faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ, the devil and his whole dominion manifest the hatred that they have for God. Because we are of the party of the Living God, we are hated; and an unchanging enmity is there towards us no matter how sweetly the adversary may smile. The God we love they hate, and therefore they hate us and will assault us either with persecution or temptation. 

But, sad to say, we are also hated for what we are. And we are sinners. By nature we are haters of God and of the neighbor. Do not forget that by nature we are all the seed of the serpent. The wonder of salvation is not simply that there are seed of the serpent in this world since the fall and also seed of the woman. The blessedness of the cross of Christ and the power of His Spirit is not that since the fall there are Cains but also Abels, Esaus but also Jacobs, barbarians but also believers. No the wonder and the blessedness of it all is that we all come into this world as Cains and Esaus and unbelievers that the blood of Christ makes us to be besides this during this life Abels and Jacobs and believers and presently in glory delivers us completely from the Cain and Esau that is in us from birth. And do not forget that besides the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, there is also an enmity between some of the seed of the serpent and other of the seed of the serpent. Unbeliever rises up against unbeliever, murderer against murderer, thief against thief. Yea the unbelieving thief and murderer rises up against other unbelievers who have not laid a finger on them or taken a penny from them. The heart that beats only with hatred towards God will also beat only with hatred against the neighbor; and we are not to expect anything else in this world. 

Often therefore we find ourselves hated by unbelievers because we are ourselves living as unbelievers, and we injure and torment, insult and irritate. We do not do good to the neighbor but evil. We do not seek his advantage but take advantage of him. We do not do unto him that which we would want him to do to us but that which we would severely condemn, if he did it to us. Because of what we are, impatient, hateful and hating, cruel and conniving sinners, we invite the wrath and enmity of our fellow men. Surely the demand of God in all this is that we love that neighbor instead and cease all our cruelty and abuse, hatred and enmity. We must do good to all men, and as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches us, “show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies.” 

It makes no difference actually why men hate us, as far as our calling is concerned to do them good. We must love them whether they hate us because we are God’s people or because we have sinned against them. As our enemies we may never seek revenge upon them. Our calling is to be the meek, the peacemakers. Our calling, as far as our enemies is concerned, is to turn the other cheek. Returning blow for blow, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is out of place whether we have gotten the enmity of men because of our own evil works or whether it is because of the reproach of Christ to Whom we belong. If we have gotten the enmity of men because we have broken one or the other of the ten commandments of our God, if it is because we have stolen his goods, slandered or insulted him with our tongues, dishonored him in his office or the like, we certainly should not continue in our evil and injure him bodily or even kill him when he attacks us for our wickedness. Then we had better get down on our knees and confess our sin to God and to him and make restitution where we may for our evil. And here we may consider the fact of the awfulness of murder in that no restitution can ever be made either to those whom we have killed or those whose loved one we have killed. You can steal, and repenting you may give him twofold or even tenfold, and the man whom you robbed is better off financially than before your sin against him. You can confess your backbiting and slander, your libel and false witness; and you can befriend him so in years that follow that he has gotten a better friend than he ever had before. But when you take his life away, he is gone, and there is no possibility of ever confessing your sin to him. Never can you fill that void that you have made in his family and among his loved ones and friends. Death is so final. From it we can make no return. All violence against our personal enemies is also strongly condemned by the Word of God as an act of hatred against God Himself. 

And if we have gotten the enmity of the world because we are the Church of God, and we must hate God’s enemies with a perfect and complete hatred, even then we must love them as our enemies and do good to them as those who do evil against us. Paul feels the need in Ephesians 6:11-16 of reminding us that we do not wrestle against flesh, and blood even when the enemy comes against us with the arm of flesh and with a sword of steel and of fiery darts that burn the flesh. We have only one weapon wherewith we may fight. That weapon is not of steel. It is not fashioned by nuclear fission. It is not made in any of the armament plants of this world. It is the armour of God, the armour which He makes and supplies. And the only weapon of attack is the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. With it you may fight. All other weapons and all the strength of your arm and tongue you must put away and lock in your closet. 

What is more, Jesus’ words are positive. He does not say, “Do not hate your enemies. Do not do evil to those that hate you.” He tells us to do something rather than to refrain from doing something. Of course, by His creative command He causes His own to do that which He commands. But that does not take away the fact that He commands, and that He commands us to dosomething. His parable of The Merciful Samaritan (erroneously and usually called, The Good Samaritan) is a case in point. Here was indeed an “enemy,” For the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, and that sinfully so. Jesus showed the sin of it by going through Samaria on his way from Judea to Galilee. He did not practice these sinful taboos and segregations. And although the enmity was chiefly from the side of the Jews towards the Samaritans, because they were not of the seed of Abraham and still lived in Canaan, the Samaritan shows mercy and compassion on the wounded Jew near Jericho. His own fellowmen, the priest and the Levite satisfy only their curiosity and continue on their way. The Samaritan does good. Indeed, the priest and Levite did not do evil. They did not add to the injuries of that wounded Jew; but they did not show love and did not do good to him. The Samaritan did good to his enemy and thereby showed love. 

Failing to do good to our enemies is failing to do the good God demands of us. And failing to do the good that God demands of us is saying by our deeds that He is not God. And so we have a god beside Him and break the whole law. In His fear we stand in awe before Him as God. In His fear, therefore, we seek to deal with the neighbour as before His face. And indeed, we always are before His face, and nothing is hid from His searching eyes. But living in His fear means that we are conscious of this fact and that we behave in the consciousness thereof and with the desire to be pleasing in His sight as the God of our salvation. In His fear is in the love of God. In His fear is doing good to our enemies in order to do the good that God demands.