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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Living With Your Enemy - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - Living With Your Enemy - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - Living With Your Enemy - Part 2
TOPICS: Grace-Powered Living, Enemy

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Have you ever heard the phrase, "Don't get mad, get even"? It represents a human philosophy that's endured for thousands and thousands of years. When somebody hurts you, you have every right to hurt them back, but in the pages of scripture we find a radically different approach. Today we're going to discover God's wisdom in Romans chapter 12 for responding to those who hurt us. My message is titled "Living with Your Enemy" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

I often think of Gandhi's statement that the principle of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" can't sustain itself forever because eventually, everybody ends up blind and toothless. And that's why Jesus offered a better solution. Go back to Matthew 5 verses 38 and 39, he said, "You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also". Now, Jesus was speaking in hyperbole here, he wasn't saying don't defend yourself, don't get off on that. What he's saying is sometimes the only way to break the cycle of anger and violence is to return good for evil instead of evil for evil. Refuse to retaliate.

Number three, Paul says, "Focus on your responsibility". If you're at odds with your enemy, focus on your part of the relationship. You know, one reason I love the Bible and we really know it's God's Word is the Bible is just so practical. I mean, Paul was no Pollyanna. He wasn't promising that every relationship can be reconciled if you'll just do the right thing. Some relationships can never be reconciled. Remember in our series on forgiveness? We said there's a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. When we forgive somebody, that's an action we take by ourselves, we let go. We give up our right to hurt the other person for hurting us.

Forgiveness only depends upon us. But reconciliation, that's another thing. It depends not upon me, but upon us. The other person is responsible for reconciliation as well. There's some things he has to do if the relationship is going to be restored. There's no guarantee even after you forgive that mate, that child, that parent, that business associate, that friend, that you'll ever be reconciled. And that's what Paul is alluding to in verse 18 here. He says, "If possible", it's not always possible, but if possible, "and so far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men".

Paul recognized you can only do what you can do. You make the effort. If in a relationship with your enemy, your enemy is 95% responsible for the breach in that relationship, and you're only responsible for 5%, you concentrate on making that 5% right, because when you've done that, you can know you have a clear conscience. Remember 1 Timothy 1:19 says a clear conscience is essential for the Christian life? What is a clear conscience? It is knowing that neither God, nor any other person can accuse me of a wrong I've not attempted to make right. God doesn't want you walking down the hall and having to avoid people because you're uncomfortable with them. It means being able to look everybody in the eye, including your enemy, and knowing you did your part in trying to make that relationship right.

Principle number four, let God settle the score. Let God settle the score. In Judith Viorst's children's book "I'll Fix Anthony," the younger brother complains about the way his older brother, Anthony, treats him. Listen to this. "My brother, Anthony, can read books now, but he won't read any books to me. He plays checkers with Bruce from his school, but when I want to play, he says, 'Go away or I'll clobber you.' I let him wear my Snoopy sweatshirt, but he never lets me borrow his sword. Mother says that deep down in his heart, Anthony loves me. Anthony says deep down in his heart, he thinks I stink. Mother says deep down in his heart where he doesn't even know it, Anthony loves me. Anthony says deep, deep down in his heart, he still thinks I stink. But when I'm six, I'll fix Anthony. When I'm six, I'll float, but Anthony will sink to the bottom. When I'm six, my teeth will fall out and I will put them under the bed and the Tooth Fairy will take them away and leave dimes. Anthony's teeth won't fall out. He'll wiggle and wiggle them but they won't fall out. I might sell him one of my teeth, but I might not. Anthony is chasing me out of the playroom right now, he says I stink, he says he's going to clobber me. I have to run now, but I won't have to run when I'm six. When I'm six, I'll fix Anthony".

You know, most of us understand the feeling of Anthony's brother, don't we? We have somebody in our life, we say, "When I get the chance, I'll fix them". The Bible has a term for that feeling. It's called vengeance. Look at verse 19, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord". Now, you might be thinking, "Well, Pastor, you just talked about that, you talked about retaliation, tit for tat". No, this isn't retaliation, retaliation is our immediate response to wrongdoing. trying to pay back somebody. Vengeance is a long-term, premeditated plan to destroy our enemy. It's that festering feeling inside that grows and grows and grows into a tumor of bitterness. There's a TV program I don't watch, but I've read about it. It's been on for seasons now, it's called "Revenge," and it's about a young woman whose father is taken away and, she thought, killed.

And so, she plots this elaborate plan to get rid of all of those who were responsible for the wrongdoing against her dad. The show has been on for four or five years now, and she's still planning and plotting what she's going to do to destroy her father's enemies. That's what he's talking about here: vengeance, a premeditated plan to settle the score. And what Paul says is never, never take your own revenge. But instead, he says, "Leave room for the wrath, the judgment of God". I want you to stay with me on this. What does he mean, "Leave room for the wrath of God"?

Here's what he means. When you are wronged, you can either try to settle the score yourself, or you can let God settle the score, but you know, just as God says, "I will not share my glory with another person," God also says, "I will not share my judgment with another person", that is, "If you want to be the one to try to settle the score yourself with your enemy, fine, I'll sit on the sidelines and let you try to do it, or you can let me do it," God says. "And, by the way, I'm much better at settling the score than you are". So what Paul is saying is if you really want to settle the score with somebody who's wronged you, don't try to do it yourself, let God do it. Leave room for the wrath of God. I was trying to decide how to illustrate that to you this morning, and perhaps this is one way to do it. Imagine this cup represents your enemy and this pitcher is filled with your wrath, anger, judgment you want to pour over your enemy.

Now, you've got a choice: you can let God handle it, or you can pour out your own judgment. But the fact is the more of your own judgment you pour out against this person, you leave no room or very little room for the judgment of God. And that's what he's saying, "Don't pour out your own wrath against this person, leave room for the judgment of God," because God has a way of settling the score much more efficiently than we can. And by the way, when God settles the score, he does it in a redemptive way. Yes, he brings justice, but he also tries to bring redemption to that person who has wronged you. And that's why it's so important we not take vengeance upon ourselves.

You know, when we talk about forgiveness, there's such a misunderstanding about this. When we forgive somebody, we're not giving up our desire to see justice for that wrongdoer. Instead, we're giving up the right to exact that justice ourselves through vengeance. When we forgive somebody, what we're really saying is, "You know what? I'm going to let go of this hurt in my life. I'm going to let God settle the score. I'm going to let God make things right with this person instead of trying to do it myself". Again, when we forgive, we're not surrendering our desire for justice, we're surrendering our desire for vengeance. And that's why the Bible says, "Vengeance is mine. I will repay," says the Lord. "As long as you leave room for me to repay". That's what the point of this verse is. You know, we've got a great illustration from the life of Jesus himself.

Look at 1 Peter 2, verse 23, talking about Jesus's attitude on the cross "and while being reviled he did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but He kept entrusting Himself to the one who judges righteously". He let God settle the score with his tormentors. You may be saying, "Well, that's okay, he could do it because he's the Son of God, but surely God doesn't expect me to react that way"? Look at 1 Peter 2:21: "For you have been called for this purpose since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example to follow in His steps". The reason Jesus responded to wrongdoing that way is so that we would have a model for doing so ourselves.

Number five, do something good for your enemy. This is moving toward a climax. Here it is, verses 20 to 21: "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him drink; for in doing so, you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good". You say, "Why in the world would I want to do something good for my enemy"? Notice the two reasons Paul gives for doing good to our enemies, he said, "First of all, it will bring conviction to your enemy". Conviction to your enemy. "In doing so, you will heap burning coals upon his head". Now, I read this week every convoluted interpretation of that phrase you can imagine, and some pretty crazy interpretations.

Some people, for example, say, "Well, what this means is, heaping burning coals upon his head, if your enemy's fire went out, the most loving thing you could do would be to get him some burning coals so he could restart his fire and so you would give him those burning coals. He would put them in a container, put them on top of his head and carry them oriental style, and that's what he's talking about here, heaping burning coals upon his head. That's not what he's talking about". Some other people said, "Well, it actually means what it says. When you do good to your enemy, you're actually putting burning coals on his head... that is, you are inflicting great pain because you're making him feel so guilty. And so it's a great win-win for you. You get to watch your enemy writhe in pain and at the same time you get credit with God for doing something good. It's the best of both worlds".

Is that what he's saying? No, this isn't something back door to revenge here. No, I think what he's saying is when you do good to your enemy, you're giving him what he really needs, and that is conviction... that is, he does feel pain when you don't respond like you, he thinks you're going to respond. when you do good for him, but that conviction, that pain leads him to repentance, a turning to God. And so, by doing good to your enemy, you're giving him what he needs most: repentance that leads to salvation. Secondly, the reason Paul says we do good to our enemy is, in a larger way, to overcome evil with good.

Whenever we respond with goodness to evil, it helps break the cycle of sin and evil in our world. I mean, isn't that what God did for us? When we sinned against him, did he respond with retribution? No, listen to the words of Colossians 3:4 and 5: "But when the kindness of God our Savior, and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy". Our sin was defeated by God's kindness. God didn't give us what we deserved, he gave us what we needed, and in a very real sense, when we respond with good to evil, it breaks the stranglehold that evil has on this world.

The late pastor James Montgomery Boice recounts the true story of a remarkable man named John Perkins, a Black man who dropped out of school in the third grade, but went on to become a pastor. He received national recognition for his leadership in race relations. President Reagan appointed John Perkins to serve on a presidential commission for any inner-city problems. I want you to listen to this story. John Perkins was born in Mississippi. He left the South for California when he was still a teenager, became a Christian in California, later returned to Mississippi because he believed God was calling him to preach the gospel to poor Black people he had been raised with and help them by developing Black leadership.

On February the 7th, 1970, a Saturday night, a van of Black college students who had been taking part in a civil rights movement, was pulled over by highway patrol, men from Brandon, Mississippi, and those students were arrested. John Perkins and two of his associates went to the jail to post bail, but when they arrived, they were surrounded by five deputies, sheriffs, and several highway patrolmen who arrested them and began to beat them. Perkins had not been speeding, taking drugs or resisting arrest, he didn't even have a police record. All he had done was go to jail to post bail for the students. But he was a Black leader, and he was hated. John Perkins was beaten most of the night, along with some of the others. They stomped on him and kept, kicked him in the head, ribs and groin. One officer brought a fork over to him and said, "Do you see this"? Then he jammed the fork up Perkins's nose. After that, he shoved it down his throat.

For part of that terrible evening, Perkins was unconscious and so mutilated that the students who were watching over him in his cell thought he was either dead or about to die. It was a case of evil in a particularly vicious, violent, racist form. Yet it did something good for John Perkins. Up to this point, he had been in Mississippi to preach to Black people, it was all he was allowed to do. The doors of virtually all White churches were closed to him, but the beating changed him and gave him a new vision. Perkins wrote, "I remembered their faces so twisted with hate. It was like looking at white-faced demons. For the first time, I saw what hate had done to those people. These policemen were poor, they saw themselves as failures. The only way they knew how to find a sense of worth was by beating us. Their racism made them feel like somebody. When I saw that, I just couldn't hate back, I could only pity them. I said to God that night, 'God, if you will get me out of this jail alive, and I really didn't think I would, I really want to preach a gospel that will heal these people as well.'"

John Perkins's recovery took him some time since he needed to heal both physically and emotionally. The physical recovery was assisted by a pair of compassionate doctors, one Black and one White. The emotional healing was accomplished by God, who taught him that the same gospel that frees Blacks. also freeze Whites and that real justice, if it was to come, would come only as people's hearts were made right with God. John Perkins added, "Now that God had enabled me to forgive the many Whites who had wronged me, I found myself able to truly love them. I wanted to return good for evil".

Maybe since I first began speaking this morning, God brought to your mind somebody who has wronged you, somebody who has hurt you deeply. Maybe you're tired of carrying that bitterness around in your heart. Maybe you're tired of wondering and worrying about, "Well, what is he or she going to do to me next? What is their next move"? Are you ready to let go of that? Hear what the apostle says, "Try to understand your enemy. Don't retaliate. Focus on your responsibility. Let God settle the score and do something good". For that enemy, perhaps the best thing you could do would be to pray for God's best in his or her life. Booker T. Washington said one time, "I refuse to lower myself by allowing any man to cause me to hate him". The only way to destroy an enemy is to make him your friend.
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