As parents, we very often handle sibling conflicts “in the moment”. While handling the difficulties that come along is certainly necessary, it can’t be the whole game plan. Rather, we need to work towards developing an overarching home environment of others-focused love and peace-seeking. We started the conversation here about how Romans 12 fleshes out “brotherly love”. We noted four broad categories:
- Live peaceably with all.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
- Outdo one another in showing honor.
- Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
I’ve linked to the posts that addressed the first three. Let’s talk here about the fourth one. Have you ever heard the saying “A friend in need is a friend indeed”? This common proverb points to the fact that a true friend is one who is by your side even when you are needing help from them, not only when you are able to do things for them or provide happiness to them. Times of need test and prove friendship.
Love Your Enemy
God calls us to go one step further, however. Jesus says,
You have heard it said “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven … For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
It can be challenging to stand by someone who is suffering and who doesn’t have much to give you in return. It can feel downright impossible to love those who are (or are acting like) enemies! Perhaps one of the things that makes the call to love enemies so stretching is a misunderstanding of the options. In our mind, it seems like the two reaction-choices would be:
- Hate the enemy. Fight back. Give him what he gave you.
- Be a doormat. Take it. Allow yourself to be hurt repeatedly.
But what if there were a third possible reaction? What if what we are really called to do is “fight back” … in a way that seek the best interest of the enemy? Here are some of the verses from Romans 12 that address this other reaction:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them … Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all … Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written “Vengeance is mine, I will replay, says the Lord.” To the contrary “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do no be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14-21
Do Overcome Evil
God doesn’t say “Don’t overcome evil.” Instead he says “Overcome evil with good.” When someone is acting like an enemy, we are called to continue in “brotherly love”, supplying their needs in a way that often weighs more heavily on their conscience (like hot coals!) than our wrath and vituperation ever could!
As we continue to encourage our children to bless those who persecute them, we mamas have to turn the sermon around and preach to ourselves, too. Don’t we all reach a point in dealing with misbehaving or ungrateful children where we feel like they have gone too far to deserve to be treated like friends? Physically and emotionally, we hold them at a distance. What if you approached that grumpy child, that complaining worker, that angry teen with a gentle hand on the shoulder or a word of sympathy? What if you literally offered food and drink?
I’m not going to make any guarantees about this method and its effectiveness. In fact, this isn’t a “technique” for achieving desired results. If you approach it with any other intent than the best interest of your child and truly being a blessing to him, then you are only engaging in disingenuous manipulation. Whether or not it “works” is not the point. We follow his calling (his example, actually) and trust him with the outcome.
Jesus says that if we love those who are loving us, big deal. But loving those who are acting like enemies? Now that is saying something. Be nice to your kids when they are easy to get along with? Good for you. Everybody does that. Be nice to your kids when they don’t deserve it? That’s real proof of your unconditional love! Perhaps “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” is truly speaking about the internal struggle that has to take place when we are “under fire”!
This post is a part of the Mama Marriage Counselor series.