Our family is working through The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton for our nightly reading. I love this book! Champ makes complex truths simple for children. Last week, we came across a section entitled, 'The Best Way to Deal with Your Enemies.' I was thoroughly impressed by Champ's approach to this topic for several reasons:
- First, Champ is clear that God's people do have enemies. Champ doesn't have his head in the sand. He recognizes there are real people who are hostile to God and the gospel message.
- Second, Champ reads contemporary Christian responses to culture in light of biblical history. Whatever way you choose to respond to a hostile culture--fighting back against the world, opting out and trying to be as holy as you can, or not rocking the boat--you have historical predecessors. There's nothing new under the sun.
- Finally, Champ centers his application in the cross. He recognizes that Jesus's response to enemies is distinctive. Any truly Christian response to a hostile culture must acknowledge that every Christian was once God's enemies too. We can love our enemies, because God first loved us.
I reached out to Champ, and I asked his permission to share the section with you. I've reprinted it below in it's entirety. You can also download 'The Best Way to Deal with Your Enemies' here.
The Best Way to Deal with Your Enemies
by Champ Thornton
If you’ve read much of the Old Testament, you know that God’s people always had enemies. Israel faced the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Midianites, the Assyrians, the Persians, and the list could go on.
In almost every situation, the same basic story happened again and again. An enemy would attack God’s people, and sometimes the enemy would win. Then life would be pretty miserable.
So God’s people would pray! They’d beg him to rescue them. And in different ways, God would send deliverers to rescue his people. These were people like Moses, David, Gideon, and Esther.
In some of these cases, God’s people just waited, praying for God to deliver them (think Moses and the escape from Egypt). Other times, God’s people took action by serving wisely even inside the enemy’s government (think Esther and the Persians, or Daniel in Babylon). Then there were times when God’s people fought their enemies, actually picking up swords, slings, or spears (think Joshua or David).
When Jesus came along, God’s people still had an enemy: the Roman Empire.
The Romans were crushing God’s people with slavery, poverty, taxes, and temptations to sin. And as always, many of God’s people were praying that the Lord would rescue them and defeat their enemy. But how would God go about doing it? No one knew exactly. As in the Old Testament, there were three basic approaches that were popular in Jesus’s day—each way was followed by a different group of people mentioned in the New Testament.
GROUP 1: Don't Rock the Boat
The “Sadducees” were rich and powerful leaders of Israel who hung out with the governing Roman authorities and, like Esther or Daniel, hoped to use their position of power to influence the enemy. Because the Sadducees didn’t actually believe many things in the Bible, they ended up just wanting to hang onto their leadership positions. So the Sadducees didn’t change Rome. Rome changed them. They didn’t turn out to be like Esther or Daniel at all.
GROUP 2: Be as Holy as You Can
Today, the word Pharisee is used to describe a proud hypocrite, but in New Testament times, the Pharisees, like Ezra and Nehemiah in the Old Testament, wanted everyone to keep God’s law. If God’s people were good enough, the Pharisees believed that God would hear their prayers and come defeat Rome. Sadly, however, the Pharisees tried to God’s Word with their actions, but their hearts were far from God himself. They weren’t really like Ezra and Nehemiah at all.
GROUP 3: Pick Up Your Sword
The “Zealots” were the Robin Hoods of Jesus’s day! Like the famous heroes of the Old Testament, they wanted Israel to rise up and fight the enemy (Rome). If all God’s people would join the ght, then God would come down and defeat the enemy just as in ancient times. Yet Rome defeated Israel every time they tried to ght. The approach of the Zealots was a far cry from famous victories won by Joshua, Samson, and David.
God’s Radical Approach
But God had a new approach, a revolutionary one. And it took almost everyone by surprise. The Lord would handle his enemies—not by influencing, fighting, or staying separate from them—but by serving them and dying for them! Jesus, the Rescuer, healed people—including Romans! (Matthew 8:5–13) He even forgave the sin of the enemy (Luke 23:34). How did he do this?
Jesus defeated the enemy by giving his life to turn them into friends (Romans 12:20). Carefully read Romans 5:6–11, noting all the changes brought by Jesus’s death. As you read, remember that we ourselves used to be enemies of God (Romans 5:9). But instead of crushing us, Jesus let himself be crushed in our place—taking our punishment (Romans 5:10) and making God our deepest delight (Romans 5:11).
And since he’s made us friends, we now get to share his love with others—even with the “enemies” in your life. Listen to these words of Jesus: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This is how Jesus treated his enemies, and he wants us to live the same way.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:6–11 NLT)
Are there people who dislike you, annoy you, or just drive you crazy? Ask the Lord to help you think of at least five new ways you can love and serve them. What’ll happen when you do this? You never know: you may find that your enemies have turned into friends.