Like Apples of Gold
Anyone who is even casually aware of the scandals - one after another - that are erupting on the American media landscape is equally aware of the avalanche of opinions broadcast on national media and on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Someone called it 'internet wars' and indeed that's what it looks like in many cases. Freedom of speech has become freedom to attack, to vilify and to seek to destroy.
What are the disciples of Jesus supposed to be doing in the midst of national scandals and hateful rhetoric in society?
As with everything else we face in life, the Scripture is our guide. The wisest king Israel ever had, Solomon, wrote the following:
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles... Proverbs 24:17
Simply put, we are forbidden to gloat over the demise of others; we are forbidden to rejoice when a sinner is caught and exposed.
Here is a serious test of our Christian character. Here is strong evidence if you are a disciple of the Lord Jesus. Here is a challenge for your faith, whether you want one or not. Are we happy when bad things happen to our 'enemies'? Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and do good to them. It is one of the chief measures of a true Christian. Such love includes being grieved when our enemy falls or stumbles in life and praying for them. If we are glad or rejoice when he is hit by adversity, we have sinned. The proverb is not complete by itself, for the next verse explains the consequences of rejoicing at his troubles, “Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him” (Pr 24:18). In other words, God may switch from your side to your enemy’s side, if He detects you gloating about pain or trouble in your enemy’s life. That should give all of us pause. By rejoicing over the exposure of someone we dislike, we stoop lower than our enemy, our malignant thoughts are revealed and the image of Jesus in us is seriously tarnished. Whether in the political arena, the entertainment industry or on a personal local level, no exposure of another's sin gives the disciple of Jesus any right to be joyful. We are commanded in I Cor. 13:6, to 'rejoice not in iniquity but rejoice in the truth.' We must rightly divide the word of Truth (II Tim 2:15) The enemy in this verse is a personal enemy that has offended you or sought your harm. Notice carefully that it is 'your enemy'. These are those people that have offended or hurt you in the past and/or have an evil agenda for you in the present.
The Pharisees twisted God's law to justify vengeance. Jesus corrected their heresy by teaching the wisdom of simply turning the other cheek if an enemy hits you. (Matt. 5: 38-42 Job, a righteous man in his generation said this: Have I rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy or exulted when evil befell him? No, I have not allowed my mouth to sin by asking for his life in a curse. Job 31:29-30 Though David's enemies rejoiced at his adversities, David testified in Psalm 35, “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourns for his mother” (Ps 35:13-14). Even the best of saints have enemies, for this world is no friend to the righteous. Consider your life. Who are your enemies? Does someone at work provoke you? Is there a church member who seems to dislike you? Does a family member ignore and slight you? Has a neighbor encroached on your property line? Does an employee show disrespect to you? Has a former friend slandered you without cause? Search carefully. Identify them all. How will you respond?
The Lord's way is: Treat your enemy with love and kindness, even in your thoughts, and let the Lord deal with him (Pr 25:20-21; 20:22).
Though they hate you without a cause, you should love them anyway.
They may slander and backbite, but you should bless and praise them.
They may ignore and slight you, but you should greet and commend them.
They may hurt you, but you should do them good and pray for them.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 Would you like to delight the Father's heart today? Pray for your enemies. Praying for them will keep you from developing a root of bitterness. Think of this: What if your Father had not loved you through Jesus Christ, even while you were still His enemy (Rom 5:6-10)?
What if He had restrained His love only to those that loved Him? You and I would be lost.
Can you follow His example? He will bless you for it. Our beloved Jesus displayed a merciful spirit by praying for His Father to forgive the soldiers gambling for his garments at the foot of the cross (Luke 23:34). One of the first deacons of the infant church, Stephen, with stones thudding off his body, and the Lord Jesus in His sight, prayed for God to forgive the Jews who were stoning him to death (Acts 7:55-60). Here was a disciple of Jesus full of the Holy Spirit and living like it under the most severe test possible.
May our words in this season of media hysteria be honoring to the LORD and be like those described in Proverbs 25:11, Like apples of gold in settings of silver are words rightly spoken.
Imagine what could happen if disciples of the LORD across the world united in prayer for the unrighteous and the lost? If we prayed as much as we comment and discuss, I believe we would see a powerful, sweeping revival snatching sinners from the very gates of hell!
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