Enemies With Benefits
It is good for you to have family. It is good for you to have friends. It is good for you to have those with whom you can share a beer, share a laugh, share a life. Blessed is the man on whom God has bestowed these gifts. For it is not good for the man to be alone, but it is good for him to be surrounded by those whom he loves and who love him. For love is not only the fulfillment of the law; it is who God is.
But if it is good for the Christian to have family and friends, it is even better for him to have enemies. Indeed, our Lord pronounced no beatitude upon the man who is loved by his wife and cherished by his children, but He does say, “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me,” (Mt 5:11). Blessed are you, O Elijah, for you had your Jezebel; blessed are you, O David, for you had your Saul; Moses, for you had your Pharaoh; and you, for you have your own Jezebels, Sauls, and Pharaohs. Or soon you shall.
It is good for you to have enemies for they provide the perfect opportunity for you to be imitators of God, as beloved children: to give food and drink to those who wish you to starve; to clothe those who would strip you of possessions or reputation; to defend those who attack you; in short, to love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, never to take revenge, but to overcome evil with good. For why make such a fuss about loving those who love you back; don’t even tax-collectors do the same? But if you love those who hate you and do good to those who wish you only evil, then, O Christian, you are perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Yes, how good it is for you to have enemies, for without them, when would you ever have the opportunity to fulfill, joyfully and willingly, the law of Christian love?
But there is also another good reason for you to have enemies: their presence in your life is a constant reminder of how deeply and madly you are in love with yourself. If you ever fool yourself into thinking you’ve made great progress in virtue and are slowly but surely making headway in cleansing that dirty heart of yours, take note of your thoughts and feelings toward a person who has wronged you, cursed you, treated you like crap. Those thoughts and feelings toward the enemy are your sanctification barometer. Sorry, O would-be saint, but you’ve got a long row to hoe and the weeds of self-love just keep a’coming. It is good to have enemies, for what are they but living reminders of the death that lurks within you.
Repent, for it is not good for the man to be alone, all alone with his sin. And you are never more alone than when you are alone with your transgression. Nor do you ever have more companions than when you repent, for if the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents, then surely they rejoice all around you.
And there is much ado about everything when you confess, for if it is good for God to have saints in heaven, it is even better for God to have penitent sinners on earth. For it is in His dealings with us, who are by nature His enemies, that God shows us what His love really is. It is the kind of love that feeds you when you’re hungry, gives you who are thirsty a drink, clothes you when you’re naked, and – in paternal compassion for His children – keeps right on wiping your dirty, stinking butts while you kick and scream and fuss. Not in His celestial conversations with angels, not surrounded by His saints upon the throne above, but while living in the enemy camp of earth God showed us who He really is.
He is the Babe-like-Moses who was nearly drowned in His own blood; the Prophet hounded by queens of deceit and heresy; the Son of David whom Saul, Saul, persecuted with blinded rage. He is the Friend of sinners but the Enemy of so-called saints who will fight tooth and claw to bring Him down. But all of it He shoulders, joyfully and willingly, that He might have you as His own. He who would overcome evil with good is overcome by evil men. God in the hands of angry sinners, spider-like men who wrap him in their web of lies, tie Him to the cross, and drain His blood.
But drained it is from the corpse on the cross that it might fill the cup in His resurrected hand. Part your lips, O sinner, for your Friend, the Friend of sinners, wishes to slake your thirst, to overcome the evil within you with the good that He is, that He gives, that is all for you. So be imitators of God, drink the cup your Father gives you, for as that blood washes down your throats, heaven sings, devils weep, and once more creation eyes the epiphany that declares one simple truth: God is love.
**This meditation is in included in my book, Christ Alone: Mediations and Sermons, available at amazon.com