How Are We To Treat Our Enemies?
Part 2: Watch Your Mouth!

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably    
with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but    
rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance    
is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine    
enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for    
in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.    
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.    
Romans 12:18-21    

In the first part of this lesson on loving our enemies we discussed how we are to act toward those who have wronged us or hurt us. In this lesson, we're going to learn how to talk to them. Our most natural response when someone hurts us or mistreats us in some way is to respond in kind: "You hurt me so I'll hurt you back." However human and understandable that may be, it only creates a vicious circle that will eventually end up destroying us. We lose our peace of mind, our joy, and our blessings - not to mention any hope of building a better relationship or improving the situation.

"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

Instead of acting the way our enemy has acted toward us, we can choose to overcome evil with good. We have to learn how to ACT out of love, rather than REACT out of hurt and anger. When we react, we are allowing the other person to control our thoughts, words, and actions. It is by far wiser for us to learn to act, instead of merely reacting. We can choose to be in control of our emotions and actions. It isn't easy, and it certainly isn't going to just happen. We have to learn to do things God's way, instead of our own.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but
harsh words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1

God's word is pretty clear about this, and it doesn't take a genius to figure it out. When someone speaks harshly to us or mistreats us, and we react in kind, it becomes a vicious circle. Where does it stop? It has to stop with us. Remember, loving our enemies and doing good to them is OUR choice. It does not require their participation or cooporation. When we choose to give back a soft answer instead of replying in kind, we break that endless cycle of shooting at one another with our words, aiming to wound and thus get the best of the other person. We may feel like they "won" if we do not defend ourselves from their attacks, but the truth is, the ONLY way we can win is by doing it God's way. A soft answer turns away wrath.

Again, remember this is our choice. We may perhaps win a battle of words, but what does that gain for us? We may win that battle but the war continues to rage on. No one ever treats us better when they feel like we have bested them. The Bible is full of good advice to us regarding the words we speak, especially to our enemies.

The heart of the righteous weighs it's answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. Prov. 15:28

What do our answers to those who have wronged us say about our righteousness? Is our righteousness evident in how we treat them, how we talk to them and about them? Would others be able to see our righteousness by our responses? Jesus said:

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart,
and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

What is abundant in our heart toward our enemy? Anger? Pain? Bitterness, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge? If these evil things are what is abundant in our hearts, that's exactly what is going to come out of our mouths. The only way we can have an abundance of good things in our hearts toward an enemy is to deliberately make a choice to put them there. It isn't going to just happen, it has to be a deliberate effort on our part. But how on earth do we do it?

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest, whatever things are just,
whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue,
and if there be any praise, think on these things." Phil. 4:8

In other words, we are not to dwell on all the faults, failures, and shortcomings of our enemies. We aren't to keep rehashing all the terrible things they did, all the awful things they said. We are not to fill our minds with plans of how to pay them back. We are instead to focus on whatever good attributes they may have. And every person has SOME good in them, somewhere. We may have to work to find it, but that's what we are to focus on.

There are three very good reasons for this great piece of advice. First, we each have our own share of faults, failures, and shortcomings, much as we hate to admit it. We have to learn to remove the log from our own eye before we try to remove the splinter from someone else's. Jesus taught all about that in Matthew 7:5. Second, we are not God, so we don't know what is really in the other person's heart. We don't know what they've gone through to make them do the things they do and act the way they act. And last, when we focus on all the negative things, we are building up an abundance of evil in our hearts.

"The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat it's fruit." Prov. 18:21

We will eat the fruit of the words we speak. And the words we speak are the words we hide in our hearts. We can build up, or we can tear down, depending on our words. We can wound, or heal. We can have peace, or constant chaos - all depending on the words we speak or choose not to speak. It's our choice.

What do the words we speak to and about our enemies say about our righteousness? Do they show our obedience to God's word? Are we willing to humble ourselves and treat our enemies as God tells us to, showing them love, grace, and mercy? Are we willing to give up our natural desire to pay them back? James summed things up pretty well when he wrote:

"If anyone considers himself religious, yet does
not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives
himself, and his religion is worthless." James 1:26

How Are We To Treat Our Enemies? Part 1
How Are We To Treat Our Enemies? Part 2: Watch Your Mouth!
How Are We To Treat Our Enemies? Part 3: Turn The Other Cheek
Loving Our Enemies

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